The Government’s International Education Strategy: what does it mean for the ELT sector?
29 March 2019

As a member of the Education Sector Advisory Group that helped to create the new International Education Strategy, English UK is pleased with the outcome which, for the first time, puts our sector at the heart of the UK's educational exports.

"UK education is punching above its weight, but below its potential. The sector tells us that they face a range of issues in increasing their international footprint… this Strategy is about meeting these challenges. At its heart is an ambition to increase the value of our education exports to £35 billion per year, and to students hosted in the UK to 600,000 per year, both by 2030," says the foreword, adding that the approach will recognise where the Government can best help and where the sector can take the lead.

The report, published by the Department for International Trade (DIT) and the Department for Education (DfE), recognises the breadth of the education sector. It talks about the benefits to the UK, including exports of almost £20 billion in 2016, a 73 per cent rise in transnational activities since 2010, soft power and global relationships. Although UK exports are growing, it says the international education sector needs to preserve its market share and the government will provide support "that only the government can give."

What are the government's main actions to support the education sector?

  1. Appoint an international education champion to spearhead activity, open opportunities, develop strong partnerships and help tackle challenges. This should be "a figurehead who understands the nuances and potential of the UK education offer, can develop long-term relationships with international governments, overseas stakeholders and is respected by the UK sector." They will lead and receive delegations, and report back to the sector on opportunities and progress in tackling barriers. The education champion's annual programme will be designed around priority regions with input from the Education Sector Advisory Group and the officials' International Education Steering Group. (To be completed by summer 2019)
  2. Ensure Education is GREAT promotes the breadth and diversity of the UK education offer, encouraging bids to the challenge fund this year. (To be completed by spring 2020)
  3. Continue to provide a welcoming environment for international students and develop an increasingly competitive offer. This includes improving the application process for international students and keeping the visa application process under review
  4. Establish a whole-of-government approach by creating formalised structures for co-ordination between government departments with an officials' steering group feeding into the Education Sector Advisory Group
  5. Provide a clearer picture of exports activity by improving the accuracy and coverage of annually published education exports data.

There will be annual updates to the strategy and there are specific actions for each sector.

What are the actions for ELT in the International Education Strategy?

The Department for International Trade will:

  • Work closely with the ELT sector, providing information to increase its involvement in exporting services and expertise. It will organise workshops to encourage providers to take advantage of export opportunities, provide training on bidding for project work and establishing overseas centres, and logistical planning to support this. (To be reviewed in spring 2020)
  • Inform the UK ELT sector of global opportunities linked to other industries and ensure providers can take part in a broader range of DIT-led activity where ELT could play a more prominent role. From 2019 there will be webinars and workshops to share sector best practice and identify large-scale international projects run by other UK exporters that require skills and training, which can be supported by language training. (To be reviewed in spring 2020)
  • Utilise our exports pipeline database to exploit opportunities overseas for promoting the English language and the UK ELT sector as valuable contributors to individual and national prosperity. There will be joint webinars between the DIT and the British Council to raise awareness of the ELT offer for the benefit of the UK education sector. (To be reviewed in spring 2020).

Which are priority markets in the International Education Strategy?

The strategy will focus on markets with the largest potential for UK education providers, UK capability and the government's wider strategic stability, prosperity and security objectives. As education is not like other exports, the Government has also emphasised feedback from the sector, market intelligence and the experience of existing UK exporters.

Four high-value campaign regions have been identified:

  • China and Hong Kong
  • The Middle East and North Africa
  • Latin America
  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) nations

Accessing these markets can be difficult without government support.

The strategy also identifies potential growth regions which might become priority regions. These include Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, Central Asia, the European Union and the United States, Australia and Canada.

How will the International Education Strategy be implemented and developed?

The Education Sector Advisory Group, on which English UK sits, will be enhanced to implement the strategy, identify new opportunities and work jointly to identify solutions to challenges. Co-chaired by the DIT and DfE, it will be supported by a cross-government senior official level International Education Steering Group. This will also be jointly chaired by the two departments and include representation from other government departments, including the Home Office.

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