The Government's forthcoming international education strategy has been created with input from English UK.
The "ambitious" strategy, currently undergoing pre-launch finalisation, is the result of an 18-month consultation undertaken with a small education sector advisory group. Meetings have been held without publicity, with the first official acknowledgement that a strategy is forthcoming in an article written for The Times by education secretary Damien Hinds.
Organisations involved are: Universities UK, the British Council, Independent Higher Education, the Skills Partnership, BESA, the Council of British International Schools, Early Years and English UK. The meetings have been chaired by trade minister Graham Stuart and co-chaired by the universities minister – Sam Gyimah until he resigned from the Government late last year.
Sarah Cooper, chief executive of English UK, said that the meetings had been productive, and she was looking forward to the strategy's launch in the coming weeks.
"The Department for International Trade set the group up to specifically explore how to make the most of this huge export industry," she said.
"English is seen as integral to all the sectors represented, and it will be clearly represented in the strategy.
"We have had a series of in-depth meetings to establish ambitions and priorities. There has been a need to encourage and understand the capacity for growth, with a rigorous drilling-down into each sector.
"The Home Office has also been involved, helping it to understand how it can support the ambitions and potential of the UK's international education sector. All this work has led to the formulation of the ambitious strategy now being finalised."
Unveiling the forthcoming strategy in The Times, Damian Hinds said: "As we leave the EU and create new international partnerships, it is critical that we cement the UK's position as a world leader in education. That is why, alongside Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, I will soon be setting out the government's ambitions for growing the UK's education exports through a new international education strategy. This will include making sure that we optimise our position in the market for international students.
"We also recognise that there are considerable challenges to working overseas in established and new markets, and the strategy will set out ways that we will support the sector with better insights into potential markets and help to tackle international barriers."
Mr Hinds' piece quoted impressive statistics about the UK's international education: that it has four universities in the global top ten according to the Quacquarelli Symonds's world university rankings, that the UK is the world's second most popular study destination for tertiary students, and that international HE students brought an estimated £11.5bn to the UK economy in 2015 through tuition fees and living expenditure.
He also talked about the value of international schools and other transnational education activity, worth around £19bn, but said students were more important than their economic value."
"However, they mean far more to us than pounds, shillings and pence: they add significantly to our already rich cultural mix, and they bring greater diversity and internationalism to our campuses. In the longer term, they help networks to grow, fostering invaluable links across our entire economic and cultural spectrum."