Letter: Top of the class

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The Independent Culture
Sir: In his attempt to help British commerce become the most competitive in the world, Peter Mandelson seems to have overlooked a sector which already is one of the best in the world: higher education ("Mandelson gives pounds 150m boost to entrepreneurs", 17 December).

While thousands of Britons fly to New York to take advantage of competitive shop prices, tens of thousands of students from America (and almost every other country in the world) come here for what is still one of the best educations the world can offer at (for Americans at least) very reasonable prices.

The French are aware of the benefits of this. The government there has recently announced a plan to take over our place as second most popular country for study, after America. As well as the skills and money these students bring, education, as the French Foreign Minister said, is "an instrument of power", giving students an understanding of and liking for the culture and working methods of their country of study.

Yet Britain is uniquely well placed to dominate this market: nowhere else can offer a world language and easy access for both EU and Commonwealth citizens. While the attempt to make the whole economy of world-class competitiveness is clearly welcome, why do we not make more of world-class services we already have?


Merton College,