English UK speaks for ELT at party conferences
6 October 2017

English UK took the issues of the UK ELT industry to the heart of both major party conferences this autumn.

Sarah Cooper, English UK's chief executive, was invited to speak at fringe meetings at both conferences, and used this opportunity to get the industry's message across and develop contacts with senior politicians and other opinion-formers, including immigration minister Brandon Lewis and Lucy Powell, former shadow education secretary who sits on the Education Select Committee.

"It's been an incredibly valuable experience, enabling me to get a positive message across to party activists and opinion-formers about UK ELT, and in making informal contact with a range of influential people which I am now following up," said Ms Cooper, adding: "I was interested to discover that, without exception there was a positive reception to taking students out of the net migration figures at the fringe events I attended."

She also attended other fringe and main conference sessions, and in Manchester got the chance to quiz immigration minister Brandon Lewis about future entry requirements for EU students to the UK post-Brexit. While he avoided that question, he assured her there were no plans to change the visa requirements for short-term students.   

She was invited to speak at a party fringe event organised for both conferences by centre-Right think-tank Policy Exchange, called The Power of English: Exporting the English Language and Strengthening Britain's Global Position. Other panel members at the events included Dr Christopher McCormick, the executive vice president for academic affairs at EF Education First, David Willetts of the Resolution Foundation, LBC radio host Iain Dale and John Blake of Policy Exchange.

In her overview of the industry, she said that half of the 500,000 million people who came to the UK last year to study English were under 18, and on very short courses, with a proportion perhaps considering returning to the UK for university.

She also highlighted concerns over a more restrictive visa system for young Europeans post-Brexit, talked of the soft power benefits English brings to the UK, and pointed out that ELT market share is being lost to competitor nations.

Labour MP Lucy Powell, whose Manchester constituency includes 16 English UK member centres, commented: "The world's language deserves more policy attention."


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