An updated International Education Strategy launched by the UK government promises to “boost” the country’s education exports, as it restates a commitment to the target of hosting 600,000 international students and growing the industry’s economic impact to £35bn annually by 2030.
At the centre of the strategy is international teaching qualifications. It also highlights recent changes in streamlining application processes and boosting job prospects for international students.
The Department for Education and the Department for International Trade will lead on the updated strategy, which builds on the 2019 plan to “sustainably” recruit international student numbers by 30% and raise the economic impact of the industry to £35bn annually by the end of the decade.
The revised document is published at the same time as wider details of the new Turing scheme have been released.
“Having a proactive global education agenda is more important than ever so we can build back better from the pandemic”
The government has placed international teaching qualifications (iQTS) to “support growing international demand for high quality teaching” and it will promote UK teaching methods for those with special educational needs and disabilities internationally.
Additionally, the country’s International Education Champion Steve Smith will promote exports growth and address barriers in the global market. Smith will also be set “priority countries” to focus on, which include India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Nigeria.
By boosting global growth opportunities, the plan will support the education sector to build back better from the pandemic, the government said.
It outlines 14 actions that include ensuring “clearer, more accessible” information and advice tailored to international students’ needs; addressing market barriers to the growth of UK education exports to facilitate TNE expansion; and continuing to explore options for a global UK alumni network.
Smith had confirmed a day earlier that TNE would be integral to the country’s approach. The strategy states: “We intend to maximise [TNE’s] long-term potential to establish a leading, sustainable market position for the UK.
“As providers look to innovate, students discover the advantages of online education, and teacher uptake of new technologies increases, it appears likely that the coronavirus pandemic has catalysed online study to become a long-standing feature, central to global education.”
The DIT and DfE will promote education and ensure the sector’s views are represented in any future free trade agreements, the document adds.
“In these unprecedented times, having a proactive global education agenda is more important than ever so we can build back better from the pandemic,” universities minister Michelle Donelan said.
“Our world-class education is a vital part of our economy and society, and we want to support universities, schools, colleges and all aspects of the education sector to thrive across the globe.”
The initiatives will “enhance the experience of international students at our universities, from the moment they apply, to the first steps of their careers”, she added.
The government will work with bodies such as UCAS, UKCISA, the OfS, UUKi and the Confederation of British Industry on areas including international students’ application process, graduate outcomes and employability, international student academic experience – and alternative student finance.
The bodies will collaborate to “build understanding of the UK’s skills needs, international labour markets, and barriers to international graduate employability and share examples of best practice across the sector”, the document noted.
“Our International Education Strategy aims to help the sector recover from the impact of the pandemic,” minister for exports Graham Stuart noted.
The OfS and UKCISA will launch a project to find “what works” in ensuring international students can integrate
“It’s vital we help the UK’s world-renowned education industry to build back better by exporting our brilliant goods, services, skills and innovation across the globe.”
The revised strategy shows the “progress we have made since the launch of the original strategy” in 2019, in addition to outlining “concrete measures” to achieve the 600,000 students and £35bn export goal by 2030, Smith suggested.
“Changes to the visa arrangements, the new iQTS, a focus on a set of priority markets and the launch of the Turing mobility scheme will all support making the UK an even more successful and attractive educational powerhouse,” he noted.
Visa changes include concessions around online and distance learning which have been implemented for coronavirus in order to ensure “students are not penalised for circumstances beyond their control during the pandemic”.
The new student visa improves on the previous Tier 4 route, the document suggests, by giving “greater flexibility to those applying overseas and streamlines the process for those already in the UK”, as well as providing “clearer pathways to international students who want to progress in their studies in the UK and develop their future career prospects”.
Other important regional markets for Steve Smith will include Brazil, Mexico, Pakistan, Europe, China and Hong Kong.
“The International Education Strategy represents the next step in a joint effort by government and the education sector”
The UK’s ‘Education is GREAT’ campaign will also support the strategy and DIT has developed a virtual program to “support the global recovery of the education sector’s international activity”.
“I am very supportive of the International Education Strategy, which represents the next step in a joint effort by government and the education sector,” said Vivienne Stern, director of Universities UK International, “to build on the international success of our education system and our attractiveness to international students.”
“This approach has delivered real benefits already, including the introduction of the graduate route, and improvements to the visa system. Despite a very difficult year, interest in UK study has grown as a result.”
Study Group CEO, Emma Lancaster, welcomed the focus on hybrid and blended modes of education delivery, “an area of growing importance to international education”, she said.
“Through our own experience of new online initiatives around international student induction, study skills support, and academic English language development focused on particular subjects areas, we have seen how valuable this approach is for students in complementing a face-to-face experience and helping to improve their confidence and attainment.”