‘Fragmented and damaging’: Million+ takes aim at coalition approach to internationalisation

England’s universities could fall behind their US and Australian competitors because of “deeply damaging” government policies, institutions have warned at the start of a major international education conference.

March 11, 2011

The Million+ group of new universities launched a report at the outset of Going Global, a British Council conference being held in Hong Kong on 11 and 12 March, that warns of the damage the policies may cause to the UK economy.

The report, International Higher Education: Missing an Opportunity?, criticises the government’s plans to cut the number of students and skilled migrants entering the UK from non-European Union countries. The final proposals to overhaul the country’s student-visa system are expected to be published as early as next week.

“Scotland has an international lifelong learning strategy, and many other countries in Europe have an international strategy in some form (including Germany, Finland and Denmark), while the US and Australia are seeking to develop and strengthen their strategic approaches to international education to gain competitive advantage,” say the report’s authors, Robin Middlehurst, Steve Woodfield and Anette Hjerde, members of Kingston University’s Higher Education Policy and Practice Network.

But the UK government has “no comprehensive strategy for internationalisation in higher education” for England’s universities and risks damaging the export earnings garnered from the sector, estimated at £5.3 billion in 2009.

The report adds: “This fragmented approach could damage key policy objectives and undermine the reputation of UK higher education overseas.”

The government is criticised for showing “very limited recognition of the international role played by modern universities”.

The report calls on the coalition to present an internationalisation strategy in the higher education White Paper, which is expected to be published in late spring or early summer, and to “provide financial investment” to support it.

David Willetts, the UK’s universities and science minister, is scheduled to speak at the conference.

Les Ebdon, chair of Million+, said: “Government policy is at best fragmented and at worst deeply damaging. Here at the Going Global conference, countries are jostling to promote their universities. It is vital that David Willetts spells out that the UK is open for business.”

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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