BIS considers private role in overseas growth

The government is consulting Goldman Sachs on how to help universities attract private funding to finance overseas ventures.

May 24, 2012

Two representatives from the investment bank attended a "round table on higher education exports" held by David Willetts, the universities and science minister, Times Higher Education has learned.

Details of the meeting on 8 May at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills - which involved potential private investors - first emerged in EducationInvestor magazine last week.

Since then, THE has learned that attendees were told by BIS that the meeting was "intended to cover the barriers to expansion, both real and perceived" and was an "opportunity" to discuss different models for transnational provision: "As part of this, the minister would like to consider the incentives and disincentives of models such as public/private partnerships."

The discussion considered not just the financing of potential overseas branch campuses but also online ventures aimed at overseas markets.

Organisations in attendance included the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, which is thought to be willing to invest up to £200 million in such ventures. Others included private providers of infrastructure such as Serco and INTO; the universities of Essex, Nottingham and Warwick and The Open University; private institutions BPP, the College of Law and the University of Buckingham; and the British Council.

It is thought that the meeting was also aimed at selecting individuals to accompany Mr Willetts on trade visits to growing economies aimed at boosting UK academic exports.

A paper prepared for the meeting by Levant Education Consulting poses the question: "Is there a role for private finance in UK HE exports?"

It says: "Clearly there is. In the current economic climate, the availability of private finance, combined with the viability of UK HE [and] training as a sellable export, mean that new models that help build infrastructure...develop business partnerships, and attract a greater share of the international student market...are needed."

john.morgan@tsleducation.com.

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