The innovations at this year's StudyWorld will transform the way international education trading events work, says organiser English UK.
As well as a prestigious central London venue and a new focus on the UK, changes included special delegations, increased flexibility for attendees, and support from the Department for International Trade. As a result, the event attracted a government minister and a peer to give major speeches, as well as MPs' visits.
"Feedback from delegates was overwhelmingly positive," said Jodie Gray, head of market development for English UK, which organises the event. "Most importantly, this is the start of a journey - I'm so excited about the possibilities for StudyWorld 2018. We innovated and, I believe, have changed the way that trading events work in the international education industry."
Sarah Cooper, English UK's chief executive, thought people were excited by the wider range of opportunities at the revamped event. "They can envisage new ways of partnering and developing collaborations, to mutual benefit," she said, adding: "It's been extraordinarily successful."
English UK Chair Steve Phillips added: "The event was great – and one of the great things was the support we had from high-level people." They included UKCISA president Lord Bilimoria and MPs Geoffrey Robinson and Andy Slaughter – who said he was "bowled over" by StudyWorld.
The transformation of StudyWorld, including moving it to the iconic Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster and showcasing the full range of UK education, has been planned for several years.
Around 700 delegates from 60 countries attended, including large groups from China and the Gulf region. There were almost 6,000 appointments over the two days of meetings, filling an average 85 per cent of educators' schedules.
Innovations included specialist delegations from the Gulf region, London embassies and Department of International Trade commercial officers, all of whom had packed schedules. Educators also enjoyed more flexibility, with options to have no table with or without a meeting schedule for one or more days as well as the classic table plus schedule.
Educators were able to take advantage of new flexibility in different ways, with a group of universities attending for one day and groups creating their own eye-catching villages. "It's a great new dawn for the promotion of British education around the world," said Kevin McNally of Torquay International School. "It's a prime location with great facilities and shows the world what we have to offer."
The new format also included a formal speech at the welcome reception, two days of professional seminars, and keynotes and a panel discussion during the day on Tuesday.
Journalist and university chancellor Gavin Esler set the tone with his keynote speech to a packed hall. He urged delegates to be passionate about education, and use their public trust to help make a better world at a time when populism has fostered a rejection of experts. "There are three pillars of trust: benevolence, integrity and competence which can give us some certainty in an uncertain world," he said.
Lord Bilimoria, himself a former international student and a passionate advocate for the benefits of international education, visited StudyWorld on two of the three days. He addressed the welcome reception about the benefit to the UK and the world for students coming here to learn, adding: "What you do for our country is brilliant: education is great."
International Trade Minister Mark Garnier said he was confident UK educators would "seize the demand" globally, and that his department would build on the country's "already impressive capability."
"There is an unprecedented level of support for UK providers to help seize the huge opportunity on offer for transnational education," he said, continuing: "I mentioned earlier the reach of education beyond classrooms; it is quite simply one of the greatest gifts we can bestow and the most important investment we can make.
Conferences such as Study World allow us to come together to champion the importance of education in creating a more stable, fair and prosperous world. There's no greater prize than that."