British universities should have an ethical dimension to their teaching policies, a conference heard this week.
Universities and colleges make up to £300 million a year from countries with a gross domestic product of £1,000 per head or less, according to Neil Kemp, director of education services at the British Council, who said institutions should make amends by reinvesting in the countries.
"We get criticisms that British institutions are only interested in profiting and making money. It would be enlightened self-interest to position ourselves with an ethical dimension," Dr Kemp told a colloquium on education, training and globalisation, hosted by the British Council and the United Kingdom Forum for International Education and Training.
He added: "Some of the innovations that Britain is bringing into distance education... would allow us to ethically market ourselves."
Roy Williams, of the University of Reading, said many institutions were already helping students from the poorest countries with loans study in the UK.
Richard Mawditt, of the School of Management at the University of Bath, said: "We make little money from the programmes we have and we are investing quite highly already."