New research sets out 12-point plan to protect the UK's international education sector

CGHE Director Professor Simon Marginson from the UCL Institute of Education has co-chaired an enquiry recommending a 12-point plan for protecting the UK’s gold standard international higher education sector.

Released today by the Higher Education Commission, a headline measure from the 12-point plan is that the government must reverse its policy on migration targets and instead have a standalone and ambitious target for the number of students the UK should attract.

This call for action follows research from CGHE and a warning from Universities UK that overseas students are beginning to opt for competitor countries.

The Commission, an independent voice on higher education made up of members of parliament, industry and education experts, says that setting a ‘friendly environment’ target for increasing international student numbers into the UK will send a welcoming message that is currently absent.

The recommendations call for continued home fee status for EU students in 2020 and beyond and for the Department for Education to recruit from target growth countries such as India and Nigeria. It also recommends that the Department for International Trade must reinvigorate the “Education is GREAT” campaign, working with universities to maximise impact and the Department for International Development should allocate a proportion of foreign aid spending to provide scholarships and pathway programmes.

Professor Marginson said:

“The export market is supply regulated as well as demand driven. By blocking growth in many universities, stepping up surveillance of bona fide students, and restricting post-study work opportunities the UK has not only held international student numbers in a flat-line position – it has sent a strong message to the world that more students are simply not welcome here.

“The restriction of supply in turn has choked off demand as students head for countries like Australia and Canada where the door is wide open. The UK retains its reputation as a high quality education country and can turn it around, but only if a clear message is given of the UK welcoming students and a balanced policy on international education is restored.”

Conservative Peer Lord Norton, who co-chaired the commission inquiry, said:

“With the UK falling behind in the global market and with Brexit on the horizon, now is the time to remove students from migration numbers, simplify the visa process and look to invest in new markets of students beyond China. If we delay or prevaricate, Australia will cement their lead and the UK will be relegated from the top tier of international higher education.”

The Higher Education Commission’s report is officially launching in the Houses of Parliament at 10am today with keynote speaker the Rt Hon. Nicky Morgan MP.