The students will work during their vacations to help businesses overcome any language and cultural barriers they may face when exporting.
The postgraduates will help the firms develop international websites, make new business contacts and advise on cultural etiquette. Universities will work with business schools and UK Trade and Investment to flag up students with appropriate language skills.
There is a pool of around 200,000 overseas postgraduates studying at UK universities from which the Postgraduates for International Business scheme can recruit, according to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. British students may also have language skills, the government says.
BIS says that the high growth export markets of China, India, and Nigeria are the top non-European Union countries that send students to the UK. The most popular subjects for international students are business studies, engineering and technology, it adds.
“The ‘Made in Britain’ brand opens doors to UK firms around the world but a lack of language and cultural skills slams them shut in their faces,” Mr Cable said.
“Our medium-sized businesses have the potential to be economic powerhouses for the UK but their success is dependent on expanding beyond domestic markets.”
He added: “This important new initiative will help firms overcome the barriers that are a drag on growth and compete with the best the rest of the world has to offer.”
A UKTI language and cultural advisor in each region of the country will work with universities and firms. Usually international student visas allow postgraduates at universities to work up to 20 hours a week during term time and full-time during holidays.
UKTI’s lead language and cultural adviser, Suzannah Hutton, said: “Recruiting an international student from the market you are trying to export to can have a dramatic effect on your business…whether that is undertaking market research, dealing with enquiries that arrive in a foreign language or making sure that you do not make a cultural faux pas when meeting international clients.”