Further education's role in the 'Blair project'

February 11, 2000

Further education colleges are on their way to meeting Tony Blair's goal of doubling their intake of overseas students by 2005, the British Council figures suggest.

Overseas student numbers in the sector rose by 37 per cent to 64,394 in 1997-98, the latest year for which figures are available. The number of overseas students in further education has almost doubled in the four years since 1994-95, and there are few signs of decline.

The biggest markets - Japan, Turkey and the Czech Republic - have all grown steadily. Numbers of students from Japan increased 21 per cent to 2,693; from Turkey 12 per cent to 1,165; and from the Czech Republic 38 per cent to 1,608.

Almost all of the growth came from an explosion in demand for qualifications at GCSE level -- level two. The number of Czech students studying in Britain at level two shot up by 404 per cent to 8. Recruitment from Japan at level two jumped 281 per cent to 731, and that from Turkey leapt 267 per cent to 396.

Other growth markets included the United States (up 59 per cent to 451) and the United Arab Emirates (up 46 per cent to 487).

Recruitment from

Thailand, South Korea, Cyprus, Kenya, Kuwait and Pakistan fell.

Perhaps the most serious market slump came from South Korea, a relatively large market. Its 17 per cent drop in total student numbers hit hard, cutting the number from 1,068 in 1996-97 to 883 in 1997-98.

The 23 per cent fall in students from Pakistan was another harsh blow, reducing total numbers from more than 700 to just 543.

A 12 per cent fall in recruitment from Thailand and an 11 per cent slip in Kuwait were offset by relatively small total numbers.

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