The UK: where world leaders come to learn

British Council claims that one in 10 current world leaders have studied in the UK

September 25, 2014

One in 10 current world leaders have studied in the UK, according to a British Council tally that covers the globally influential, the obscure and the notorious.

The British Council’s count of leaders (out of 245 worldwide) who were students in the UK includes figures such as Tony Abbott, the Australian prime minister, who studied at the University of Oxford; Elio Di Rupo, the Belgian prime minister, who studied at the University of Leeds; and Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, who studied at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Also cited by the British Council, but perhaps less likely to feature in any prospectuses, are Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president who undertook postgraduate training at the Western Eye Hospital, now part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, and Viktor Orbán, the controversial prime minister of Hungary, who spent time at Oxford.

Lesser-known UK alumni cited by the British Council include King Tupou VI of Tonga, who studied at the University of East Anglia, and Enele Sopoaga, the prime minister of Tuvalu, who studied at Oxford and the University of Sussex.

Rebecca Hughes, the British Council’s head of international higher education, said: “Having so many heads of state spend part of their most formative years learning about and being part of UK culture is a fine example of how the UK’s higher education sector is a long-term asset, not just locally but internationally.”

The British Council said that when measured as a proportion of total students in each country, the UK is 10 times more likely to produce a world leader than the US. UK universities produce one world leader per 50,000 graduates, whereas the US produces one per 500,000, the British Council said.

The British Council launched the Education UK Alumni Awards on 25 September, which it said was “part of a new campaign that seeks to identify and celebrate exceptional achievement of recent alumni from China, India and the USA, three of the biggest sources of international students at UK universities, and inspire the next generation of students to study in the UK”.

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