Blair to market academia

March 19, 1999

The government is to launch a campaign to give British universities the edge in overseas markets worth billions of pounds.

Prime minister Tony Blair and education secretary David Blunkett are expected to spearhead the campaign, which could lead to revamped visa procedures and employment rules for overseas students.

Celebrities from the sporting, artistic, commercial and scientific worlds will be invited to help sell "British Higher Education plc" as part of the "Cool Britannia" drive.

A promotion campaign highlighting up to ten priority areas in the world for selling British higher education will be launched next January. It will market a brand image emphasising British academic quality and excellence, educational and cultural diversity, the value of English, benefits of the British lifestyle, opportunities for personal development, and affordability.

This will follow surveys in Britain, Australia and America on what does or does not attract overseas students to British universities to be completed by October.

The surveys will be conducted by an informal working group involving the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, the UK Council for Overseas Student Affairs, the British Council and government representatives.

Next month initial conclusions on a six-month inter-departmental review of scholarships and other arrangements promoting British higher education will be reported. The review was set up by the Cabinet Office after Mr Blair's trip to China last autumn.

Recommendations are likely to include maintenance of present levels of funding for scholarships, which have been under threat, if Britain is to compete effectively with Australia, the United States, Canada and France.

Ministers are also likely to propose that visa processing is streamlined. An accelerated visa system piloted by the British Council in India may be extended.

The report may also propose cutting through Employment Office and Home Office red tape which presently makes it difficult for overseas students to take part-time work.

Student mobility, 8 and 9

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