A leading role for Britain

June 30, 2000

The report welcomes prime minister Tony Blair's initiative to recruit 50,000 more higher education students from overseas by 2005, but it calls for action to encourage mobility among students from less developed countries.

This could be achieved, it suggests, through countries increasing opportunities for study in the UK or supporting mobility between developing countries.

There should also be measures to promote outward student mobility from the UK, such as access to student loan entitlement for students taking their degree abroad.

Given the UK's role as a leading member of the Commonwealth, the group hopes that it will support the recommendations and seek the support of other Commonwealth governments for policies that will achieve them.

The impact of student mobility from poor countries should be a priority in development policy and consideration should be given to the effect of international fees and awards policies on the stock of skills in developing countries and on their foreign exchange and balance of payments.

The importance for developing countries of gaining access to specialised and advanced training programmes in industrialised countries was one of the main considerations that delayed introduction of differential and full-cost fees. But in the UK, the Department for International Development has reduced the awards under its Technical Cooperation Training Programme and has argued in favour of a switch to in-country and third-country training and distance education.

The focus on the role of basic education in poverty reduction has deflected the Department for International Development from clear policies on the implications for developing countries of rich-country marketing of education internationally, the report says.

"International students are an increasingly vital element in the viability of UK higher education, especially at postgraduate level," the report says. "The level of funding provided to support both home students and UK-based research should be sufficient to attract appropriate staff and maintain standards I if the UK is to be able to go on attracting well-qualified international students."

For Britain, patterns of international student mobility have been heavily affected by membership of the European Union - when fees for students from the rest of the world were raised to full-cost levels from 1980, fees for students from the European Community were cut to the domestic rate. The report says that cooperation in Europe and the accession of new members dramatically boosted the numbers of EU students in the UK.


The Association for Commonwealth Universities has drawn up a proposal for a Charter of Values for Commonwealth universities.

The proposed common values and principles - which would be appropriate to universities at all levels of human development and which would provide a sound context for all international student exchange - are:

  • Cooperation, collaboration and collegialism
  • Academic enterprise and innovation
  • Transparency in constitutions and modes of governance
  • Accessibility to the public
  • Efficiency and effectiveness in resource management
  • Respect for and recognition of intellectual property rights.

  Commonwealth faces new century's challenge

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