Ivy League may take best British students

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The Independent Online

Ivy League universities from the United States will have set up campuses in the UK by the end of the decade to recruit British students, says one of the country's leading academics.

Writing in today's education supplement of The Independent, Andrew Oswald, a professor of economics at the University of Warwick, says: "It is only a matter of time before United States universities set up shop in our country."

Professor Oswald, who has worked at Princeton and Dartmouth, two Ivy League universities, says they will be able to cream off the brightest students from leading UK institutions.

"Crucially, the newcomers will offer generous scholarships to our cleverest students from hard-up backgrounds," he says. "They will do this by transferring part of the cash paid up - cheerfully - by British students coming from well-off British homes."

One Ivy League university source said: "We are heavily into globalisation and trying to attract as many students from around the world as we can to come here. There is no reason why it couldn't work the other way round - with us setting up campuses elsewhere."

Leading academics believe the Ivy League universities - a group of eight prestigious and long-established universities in the east of the US - will have a headstart on their British counterparts. They will be able to charge full-cost fees as they will not be bound by the Government's maximum top-up fee of £3,000 a year for UK state universities. They will also be able to provide world-class research facilities and resources. British universities say that - even with the £1.2bn a year that top-up fees will generate - they will still be £8bn short of the cash they need to build resources to the level they were at a decade ago.

While no US university has officially unveiled plans to set up a UK campus, schools have noticed an increased interest from institutions such as Harvard and Yale. Academics from the Ivy League have been visiting top independent schools to encourage pupils to make applications; many schools also hold American evenings. The number of British students on undergraduate courses in the US has increased 20 per cent to 5,000 in the past six years.

Professor Oswald says: "We know that American universities are anxious to make that sort of expansion all over the world. They scour the world for talent - and that includes Britain.

"At the moment, many UK students are going to the USA to study but I hear things on the grapevine that they are interested in setting up in the UK."

He added that the Ivy League universities would have no difficulty in luring key research staff away from UK institutions. The Association of University Teachers is warning of a "brain drain" of lecturers as a result of falling salaries. The union held a nationwide strike yesterday in protest over pay. It says about 2,000 lecturers a year are quitting jobs in the UK - twice as many as three years ago.

The professor said the World Trade Organisation agreement on trades and services would make an Ivy League incursion "unstoppable legally". He predicted the UK would see Ivy League campuses "up and running by the end of the decade".