In a previous post, I reported on the debate I initiated in the Lords in July on the value to the United Kingdom of the export of higher education. Exporting HE, principally in the form of recruiting overseas students to study in a UK HE institution, is a major resource for the United Kingdom, not just in economic terms, but also in educational and political terms. As I mentioned in my earlier post, the economic value is not confined to fee income from overseas students or the major contribution those students make to local economies, but encompasses trade. Business people overseas who have studied in the UK are more likely to trade with the UK than those educated elsewhere.
The debate came ahead of the launch of the report of the Higher Education Commission on the value of HE as an export. I chair the Commission and co-chair each inquiry. The report, Staying Ahead – Are International Students Going Down Under?, can be read here. It was launched to a packed meeting in the Attlee Suite in Portcullis House. It draws out not only the value of HE as an export, but also the serious challenges we face in recruiting overseas students. We are losing out to our main competitors, not least Australia, hence the title of the report. We need to take action if we are to maintain our competitive position in an increasingly intense market. Our competitors are recruiting fairly aggressively, whereas in the UK Home Office policies are acting as a deterrent. The report identifies what needs to be done if we are to retain and enhance our position globally and at time when the economic benefits are especially important. As I stressed at the launch of the report, looking at the position now may not convey a sense of crisis. Looking at it from a dynamic perspective – the trends in recruitment – then we can see that the need for action is pressing.