International issues 'ignored' in White Paper

The sector's international unit has criticised the government for failing to include internationalisation in the recent higher education White Paper, while underlining the need for "positive messaging" to overseas governments.

October 6, 2011

Ahead of the publication of the strategy document in June, Joanna Newman, director of the UK Higher Education International and Europe Unit, met with a senior official from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

In its submission for the White Paper, the unit said it was asked to "provide BIS with its views on which areas of the internationalisation of higher education should be prioritised in the White Paper".

However, when it appeared, the paper barely mentioned international issues: instead it focused almost exclusively on student number control and deregulation.

Dr Newman and Colin Riordan, chair of the international unit and vice-chancellor of the University of Essex, have now written to the higher education directorate at BIS.

They say it was "notable that the paper makes no substantial reference to one of the most prominent strategic challenges facing higher education institutions today".

They add that following the Browne Review, changes to funding, "the resulting student riots" and changes to the student visa system, "there has been a spate of bad press internationally that has the potential to impact on institutions' ability to internationalise".

"There needs to be a concerted effort to improve consistent and positive messaging to overseas governments," the letter says.

Professor Riordan and Dr Newman argue that the UK must remain at the forefront of the strategic shift away from international student recruitment towards "exchanges, internationalisation of curricula, teaching partnerships and research collaborations".

David Willetts, the universities and science minister, said in July that plans for a chapter on internationalisation in the White Paper had been dropped because "it was not going to fit in with the central focus on the English teaching academic experience issue".

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