The THES report (June 23) on the economic benefits of international students based on the recently published Committe of Vice Chancellors and Principals report comes at a time when more attention is being given to this important export industry by all sectors of education and when this week the first ever Confederation of British Industry conference on education as an export industry is being held.
The international education industry is a competitive one. The United Kingdom holds fourth position as a host for international students behind the United States, France and Germany, and with Australia hard on our heels we are doing well in respect to the number and capacity of our institutions. International students represent 10 per cent of our higher education enrolments. Comparable figures for the US and Australia are 3.1 per cent and 7.5 per cent respectively.
Total international student numbers in the public sectors of higher and further education rose by almost 15 per cent to 124,000 from 1992/93 to 1993/94. First estimates for 1994/95 show a further increase of 11 per cent. These figures are naturally higher that those quoted in the CVCP report on higher education. Home Office statistics for international student visas show a staggering 239,000 issues for 1993.
To meet this demand, the Education Counselling Service (ECS), a consortium of the British Council and more than 200 education institutions in the higher, further and independent sectors, is expanding its subscriber base to include independent secondary schools, English language teaching institutions and examination boards and professional bodies.
Sectoral expansion of the ECS is being accompanied by geographical expansion as council offices in South Asia, the Middle East and Latin America gear up for education promotion. By 1998 the ECS should be operating in 18 countries.
This expansion is being supported by initiatives being taken by the Department of Trade and Inudstry and the Department for Education through the Education and Training Sector Group which includes education suppliers, publishers, consultants and even construction project companies.
The total impact of all these sectors on the UK economy may be more than five times as great as the Pounds 1 billion suggested in your report.
GEOFF EVANS Business development officer Education Counselling Service British Council