A new image for Britain's higher education in highly competitive overseas markets was launched this week as part of the strategy to meet the government's aim of 75,000 extra overseas students in universities and colleges by 2005.
The Education UK brand will be used by the British Council to target would-be students in eight priority countries - and eventually in all 110 where it has a presence.
It combines recruiting materials with content customised for local conditions and three promotional videos using genuine students photographed and filmed in London. But council officials believe the key weapon in the drive to compete more effectively with the United States and Australia will be a web presence at www.educationuk.org.
The site, currently under development, will link to existing sites such as the British Council's Virtual Campus and a new Department for Education and Employment site for international students (www.dfee.gov.uk/international students).
Launching the materials, Baroness Blackstone, minister of state for higher education, said: "We want the United Kingdom to be the first choice for quality and we want international students to be the best they can be."
The government has pledged Pounds 5 million over three years to support the investment in the new brand image. The council has based its strategy on market research from MORI, public relations guidance from Shandwick and marketing advice from McCann Erickson.
Piera Gerrard, deputy director of the British Council's Education Counselling Service, who has been working on the project for the past year, said: "We identified from the research that students strive to be the best they can be. Rather than saying 'We are the best', we are taking an individual and offering the opportunity to become the best they can be," she said.
Design guru Terence Conran endorsed the new brand image.
The materials were tested at this week's education exhibition in Hong Kong, where one of the students featured in the publicity found her lifesized photograph gracing a bus stop.
British Council offices will be able to tailor local publicity materials by drawing on a CD-Rom image bank for relevant images, available at cost from McCann Erickson by email or on disk in the required format and size.
In addition to Hong Kong, the priority countries are Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Russia, India, Brazil and China. A further 30 countries have been identified as strong education markets.