FE-business venture seals export deal

May 9, 2003

Further education colleges have teamed up with equipment suppliers to open a multimillion-pound international market.

Colleges are offering training as part of a package to help foreign teaching staff learn how to use the latest educational equipment sold by local partner suppliers to overseas institutions.

The venture is the result of an agreement between the Association of Colleges and the British Education Suppliers Association, which represents 240 companies that supply equipment to schools, colleges and universities worldwide.

It has already helped to secure a £25 million export deal to Mexico for Darwin Instruments Ltd, working in partnership with Bradford College and Warwickshire College.

As part of the package, the colleges will train 20 teachers from Veracruz in the latest teaching and learning methods. Lecturers from the colleges will travel to Mexico in October to observe how the teachers are applying what they have learnt.

The AoC and Besa said they were expecting the deal to be the first of many.

Trade Partners UK, the arm of the Department of Trade and Industry responsible for helping companies with exports, is also involved.

Jo Clough, AoC international director, said the venture opened up new ways for colleges to increase their international activities and forge links with local companies, which the government has criticised them for failing to do.

She said: "This contract shows that UK companies can succeed overseas by offering training by British colleges and a professional development programme as part of an export package. The AoC hoped this will be the first of many overseas ventures between UK education and business."

Barry Miller, head of teacher education at Bradford College, said that although the Mexican initiative was educationally motivated, it was likely to bring a wide range of benefits to the college.

"In the longer term, I am sure there is growth potential as the college becomes known in more parts of the world and attracts more international students," he said.

Mark Roelofsen, international manager for Besa, said there was no reason why universities could not also become involved in forging similar deals.

"If a professor in Leeds is helping his counterpart in Shanghai, there is no way currently for companies to be aware of that. But a mechanism to bring everyone together, that would be a welcome step," he said.

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