Letter: Universities and independent schools pass the Taiwan test

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The Independent Online
Sir: Hamish McRae is right to include higher education among commodities in which Britain has a competitive advantage in world - and particularly Far East - markets (16 December).

But it is not just the universities that are well placed. The reputation of our independent schools is so high that huge sums are brought into Britain by overseas pupils' fees. Boarding schools earn at least pounds 130m per year for Britain in foreign currency. Even more important are the long-term benefits to Britain in hosting, for part of their school education, thousands of young foreigners, many of whom will eventually occupy influential positions in their own countries. That is why we have done what Mr McRae recommends, by identifying our schools as 'an export business'.

On behalf of our boarding schools, we attend major education exhibitions in the Far East and Europe, such as those in Berlin last month and Hong Kong and Taiwan next spring. The result, together with more active permanent representation in these and other countries, is an increase of 4 per cent in 1992-93 in the number of foreign pupils coming to UK independent senior and preparatory schools.

If Mr McRae visits one of these exhibitions he will be agreeably surprised by the well organised presence of most of our universities (though not usually Oxbridge), and also by the support provided by the British Council and the Department of Trade and Industry.

His use of the Taiwan yardstick is apt. Since 1989 the number of Taiwanese students in the UK has grown from 200 to 3,000. That is a measure of the success of the Anglo- Taiwan Education Centre, which sees the opportunity for further rapid growth.

Yours faithfully,

DAVID J. WOODHEAD

National Director

Independent Schools Information Service

London, SW1

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