Education and Skills Committee

5 August 2007


The Education and Skills Committee today releases its report on The future sustainability of the higher education sector: international aspects, which examines the significance of international relationships to the UK higher education sector.

The key to continued success in attracting international students to the UK is the provision of high quality education, says the report. Student recruitment must not be driven by ₓshort term gains in fee incomeâ‚?. Equally, establishing genuine partnerships and engaging in thoughtful collaborations is vital to produce sustainable relationships with international institutions and students.

The Committee recommends that the Government and the British Council work with UK universities to build on existing successful partnerships, such as the UK India Education and Research Initiative, and explore how similar arrangements might be created with institutions in China, where the higher education sector is expanding rapidly. A major prestigious foundation, offering scholarships and fellowships, should be funded by the Government, in partnership with the private sector, the Committee says.

The Committee also calls for dramatic steps to be taken to encourage larger numbers of UK students to study in other countries. The report recommends that in order to maximise the benefits of international education a more strategic approach is required by the higher education sector to allow greater flexibility in this area, for example by enabling students to study abroad for three or six months, rather than a full year, and providing intensive language training.

On a separate issue, informed in part by the Committee's recent visit to Australia, the report suggests that the distinction between full-time and part-time students for fee and income support is ₓso blurred as to be no longer sustainableâ‚?. The Committee recommends that the Government urgently reviews fee support arrangements for part time students and says that students should be seen as ₓone group with a variety of needs for support rather than being arbitrarily divided into categories of part-time and full-timeâ‚?.

The Chairman of the Education and Skills Committee, Mr Barry Sheerman MP, said:

ₓCollaboration and partnership between institutions and individuals in the UK higher education sector and their counterparts in countries such as India and China are vitally important. It is clear that they bring significant educational, cultural and economic benefits to universities and to the country more generally.

"International relationships in higher education need to be sustainable, and time spent now in building links will reap rich rewards in the long term. Encouraging flows of students both to and from this country should be a fundamental part of this process.

"Key decision makers in China believe that the time is ripe for a major growth in collaborative research between the UK and China and this could lead to a massive increase in research funding for UK universities.â‚?