Undervalued exports

November 26, 2009

In 2007, the British Council published an estimate of the value of the education-export sector to the UK in a publication called Global Value - The Value of UK Education and Training Exports: An Update. If you extrapolate its values to 2008, even conservatively, you would come to the conclusion that the sector was worth at least £32 billion to our economy. Strange then that within the Office for National Statistics' figures on export sectors, contained most recently in the 2009 edition of the UK Balance of Payments - The Pink Book, there is no mention of education and training as an export sector of note. If it had been separately assessed, education and training would rank fourth after financial services, chemicals and intermediate manufactured goods.

If Lord Mandelson and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills could see the very significant contribution that education and training exports make to the UK economy, they might be more vociferous in ensuring that the proposed tightening of the tier 4 points-based visa system, announced by the Prime Minister recently, is not as draconian as currently proposed. As it stands, it threatens to keep 25,000 legitimate international students out of the UK each year, who will go to study in Australia or the US instead. This could cost the jobs of the 10,000 people involved in the UK's education-export sector.

James Pitman, Managing director, Study Group UK.

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