Letter: Michael Portillo's 'off-the-cuff' remarks on education standards abroad

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The Independent Online
Sir: On the day that Michael Portillo so sweepingly chose to denigrate other educational systems around the world, I returned to the UK from a visit to Malaysia promoting British education and interviewing students who wished to continue their studies in this country.

The students I saw, some studying A-levels (validated by UK examination boards), others following comparable educational programmes scrutinised and audited with as much rigour as here, were delightful and had academic standards comparable with the very best students educated in the UK. Now I must wait to see if my efforts, and those of others, have been nullified by Mr Portillo's ill-judged and insensitive comments which inevitably will receive wide reporting around the globe.

As Chief Secretary to the Treasury, he may be aware that UK universities derive a significant proportion of their income from educating overseas students, as well as benefiting from academic co-operation. With a number of countries offering English-

medium degree courses, this world-wide educational market is extremely competitive; but it is also very sensitive to injudicious remarks made by ministers.

Yours faithfully,

PETER J. WINTERBURN

Cardiff

5 February

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