Universities told: go for foreign gold

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The Independent Online
TONY BLAIR has asked advertisers and marketing consultants to rebrand British universities and colleges in a drive to attract an extra 75,000 foreign fee-paying students worth around pounds 700m a year

The Prime Minister announced yesterday that he wanted Britain to secure 25 per cent of the global market in foreign students by 2005. At present, it has 17 per cent compared with 68 per cent for the United States, 10 per cent for Australia and 5 per cent for Canada.

Mr Blair said in a speech at the London School of Economics: "Wherever I travel, I meet international leaders who have studied in Britain. Dynamic, intelligent people who chose Britain because we offer high quality further and higher education.

"This is good news for the UK. People who are educated here have lasting ties to our country. They promote Britain around the world, helping our trade and our diplomacy."

Under the new scheme, foreign students will still pay full-cost fees, but their visa applications will be streamlined and regulations will be relaxed to make it easier for them to take jobs while they are studying. Of the 75,000 extra students that Mr Blair wants to attract by 2005, 50,000 are expected to enrol at universities and 25,000 at further education colleges.

In 1996-97 there were more than 600,000 full fee-paying foreign students in higher education in the four main English-speaking countries.

The total number of international students at all British universities, colleges and schools that year was 271,000.

Exports of education and training are already worth pounds 8bn a year, Mr Blair said.

Baroness Blackstone, the Higher Education minister, said the pounds 700m earned from the extra students would be invested in universities. "The money will be used for the facilities and staff needed to ensure the continuing high quality of our universities and colleges."

Ministers have already decided to expand the number of home students in universities and colleges by 800,000. Lady Blackstone said she did not rule out further expansion.

The Prime Minister also announced that an extra 1,000 Chevening scholarships would be offered each year financed by the Government and private sources. At present, 2,200 such scholarships are awarded each year for postgraduate study or research in UK universities.

Mr Blair, who was on his way to the G8 summit in Cologne, said he hoped the G8 countries would issue a Charter on Lifelong Learning.

"One of the most important contributions we can make is to ensure that our universities and colleges are open to able students from around the world. In a world of lifelong learning, British education is a first-class ticket for life."

The three-year pounds 5m global marketing campaign starting in January 2000, will brand UK education as first for quality and choice. It will provide an umbrella under which all educational institutions, including English language colleges and private schools, can market themselves abroad.

The "UK Education Brand" is to be developed by the British Council working with McCann Erickson, the world's largest advertising agency.

Leaders of the World, And Graduates of Britain

Tung Chee-Hwa

Chief executive, Hong Kong. 1960, B Eng (Hons) Marine Engineering, Liverpool University.

Bill Clinton

US president, and a former Rhodes Scholar at University College, Oxford.

Thabo Mbeki

New president of South Africa. Sussex University BA (Economics) 1962- 65 MA (African Studies) 1965-66.

Ja'afar ibni

Abdul Rahman

King of Malaysia. 1951 Degree in Law, Nottingham University.

Dr Percival Patterson

Prime Minister of Jamaica. 1963 Degree in Law, London School of Economics.

Dr Constantine Simitis

Prime Minister of Greece, 1961-63, research student, London School of Economics.