Speaking to business leaders at the British Chambers of Commerce in Hong Kong earlier today, the chancellor of the exchequer said he wanted to strengthen academic ties between the UK and China, and to encourage more students to come to British institutions.
“We already have over 100,000 Chinese students studying in the UK each year,” he said. “Today I can announce a new collaborative programme between leading universities in China and the Russell Group of UK universities on the key challenges we all face.”
It has not been confirmed which Chinese institutions will take part in the collaborations, but it is thought the “C9 League” of research intensive institutions in mainland China could be involved, along with respected institutions in Hong Kong.
Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said the collaborations with Chinese institutions would aim to “tackle global challenges, such as public health and sustainable cities”.
“China and the UK face many similar issues and international collaboration is essential if we are to tackle these 21st century challenges effectively,” she said. “China invests heavily in research and innovation and as a result their leading universities are climbing up the league tables and delivering more.”
According to the most recent data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the number of first-year students from mainland China starting courses in 2012-13 was up 6 per cent on the previous year, from 53,525 to 56,535. Over the same period there was an 18 per cent increase in the number of first-years from Hong Kong, with the number rising from 5,320 to 6,305.
The total number of students from China and Hong Kong enrolled in UK higher education during 2012-13 was 98,805.
Elsewhere in his speech, Mr Osborne defended the government’s record on higher education. “We have reformed university funding and spent on science, so that British universities can remain world-leading,” he said.