Memorandum submitted by the British Council
The British Council has six loci in submitting
this evidence. It:
leads on implementation of the second
phase of the Prime Minister's Initiative (PMI2), (in partnership
with DfES, and the UK education sector) along with the UK/India
Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) and the British Degrees
in Russia (BRIDGE) programme.
it works with partners from the UK
higher education sector on HE reform projects around the world
(eg, China, Japan, Middle East, Africa, Latin America) .
has strong relationships with the
higher education sector through the Education UK Partnership.
The British Council also administers:
Comenius, Lingua, Grundtvig and Minerva
actions of the European Union's Socrates programme within the
UK, and will be responsible for Erasmus;.
the International Association for
the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE) programme
and the new DFID higher education links programme, Development
Partnerships in Higher Education (DELPHE); the England Africa
Partnerships; the Bond scheme on business placements; and.
a range of international scholarship
programmes, including the Chevening programme on behalf of the
This submission is confined to the international
dimensions of the Committee's terms of reference, except where
a broader perspective is necessary to provide context. It takes
as given, rather than specifically addresses, the globalisation
of higher education as these trends are widely documented.
UK degrees are highly valued by international
students for their global recognition. International students
adopt an essentially utilitarian view of higher education which
is likely to increasingly involve consideration of value for money,
including opting for programmes at least partly delivered offshore.
Higher education plays an important
role in UK's cultural and diplomatic relations with other countries,
and it should prepare UK students to be active global citizens
(paragraphs 6, 7). Higher education is a major factor in making
the UK an internationally competitive world-class knowledge economy,
and is crucial in attracting creative and innovative talent to
this country. Higher Education also plays a very significant role
in the UK's cultural and diplomatic relationships with other countries.
A stable and internationally competitive
higher education sector should be a prime objective of Government
policy. The UK is a successful but high cost provider of international
education, which, if competitiveness is to be retained, may need
to improve student satisfaction in terms of value for money. The
evidence suggests that the UK is competitive in attracting high
calibre international staff (paragraphs 8-11).
With increased competition, it is
likely that the UK will lose market dominance over the longer
term. Some HEIs will need to take urgent action to balance their
books if there is a downturn in demand. There is a greater risk
to the viability of individual departments, particularly at postgraduate
research level (paragraphs 12-17).
For these reasons, it is important
that the Prime Minister's Initiative on international education
continues to receive stable funding from the various partners
involved. As the competition intensifies, it is absolutely critical
that we significantly increase our marketing activity while at
the same time building stronger foundations through sustainable
relationships with overseas education institutions and governments.
PMI 2the second-phase initiative launched in Spring 2006provides
for £6.9 million pa over two years for these activities.
The PMI is, however, a five-year initiative and consistency of
funding up to 2010-11 will be essential if the initiative is to
meet its objectives successfully.
The current differential (even after
the partial deregulation of fees) between what an HEI receives
for teaching a home/EU student and the tuition fee paid by other
overseas students is difficult to justify and may have distorted
HEI's recruitment and admissions' policies (paragraphs 18-20).
The balance between postgraduate
and undergraduate international student numbers is driven by the
competitive advantage of the UK's one-year Master's, but this
adds a degree of instability to the system because the students
have to be replaced annually rather than on a three-year cycle
It is difficult to manage the postgraduate
market, but it is in the own interests of HEIs to manage admissions
to programmes to avoid student dissatisfaction with programmes
made up largely of overseas students (paragraphs 24, 25).
The Bologna Process should increase
the pool of candidates qualified to enrol in postgraduate education
in the UK, but there is a danger that one-year Master's programmes
might be perceived as not of the same standard as longer programmes
on the continent (paragraphs 27-29).
It is unlikely that the development
of the European Higher Education Framework and the European Credit
transfer System (ECTS) will significantly increase outward student
mobility from the UK which is constrained more by linguistic ability
and financial concerns (paragraph 31).
While there is a case for UK HEIs
to look more towards Europe, it is difficult at this stage to
judge the likely impact of the European Higher Education Area
on recruitment to UK universities (paragraphs 32, 33).
NEXT 510 YEARS
What do students want and what should the student
1. Students want to receive a high quality
education which enables them both to realise their full potential
and to develop knowledge and skills which equip them for employment
in an increasingly global market place, including the learning
skills to facilitate changing occupations during their lifetime.
As tuition fees increase, value for money will become an increasingly
important factor in students' assessment of their higher education
2. International students want the international
status which a degree from a UK HEI bestows on them. UK degrees
are seen as having wide global recognition and are highly valued
as a route to graduate employment. An added advantage is the expectation
that students' command of the English language will improve as
a consequence of studying and being immersed in UK society. However,
students from some of the key sender countries (in particular
China) are increasingly seeking the ability to add work experience
to their educational qualifications overseas. International students
are increasingly placing a high priority on obtaining work experience
in the UKeither during or after their degrees. While schemes
such as SEGS and Fresh Talent go some way to achieving this, relevant
work experience is still difficult to obtain.
3. The high cost of UK degrees leads many
students to want a degree of flexibility in provision, so that
they can study at least part of a UK degree programme in their
own country. Overseas governments often encourage entry from foreign
providers as a partial solution to capacity constraints, to reduce
the capital outflows and limit the brain drain. Flexible delivery,
often referred to as Trans-national Education (TNE) in an international
context, has become increasingly important as UK HEIs have grown
international teaching links and partnerships integrating open
and distance learning, e-delivery, and face to face programmes.
There are an estimated 220,000 international students following
UK higher education programmes delivered overseas, and the numbers
may overtake those attending programmes in the UK by 2010. These
innovative partnerships present new challenges, particularly around
the maintenance of quality and standards, but potentially have
significant long term benefits.
What should the Government, and society more generally,
want from higher education: a stable, internationally competitive
4. Higher education should play a vital
role in educating UK students, not just as active UK citizens
but as active global citizens. HEIs should produce UK graduates
appropriate for a high skill global economy. It is in the interest
of all students that, whatever their origin, they mix as equals
on campus in an open and questioning environment. More than this,
higher education should look at ways of "internationalising""
its home students, for example through the curriculum or through
outward mobility. While this has resource implications, it is
our view that internationalisation would benefit the UK's future
prosperity and position in the world as well as improve the prospects
of the next generation of students.
5. Higher education has the potential to
make a major contribution to the Government's international strategic
priorities. It plays a very significant role in the UK's cultural
and diplomatic relationships with other countries, a role which
can only increase as the UK seeks new forms of engagement with
countries across the world. In addition to the education of international
students, partnerships in research and teaching are becoming increasingly
important as a vehicle of UK engagement. The higher education
sector plays an important role in the building internationally
of the reputation of, and links for, UK's global economy.
6. The maintenance of a stable and internationally
competitive HE sector in a globalised world should be a prime
objective of Government policy. Besides acting as a leading source
of wealth generation within the country, an internationally competitive
contributes over £4 billion
in export earnings, of which nearly £3.5 billion is accounted
for by change to UK HEIs (Johnes, 2004);.
is in demand by international students
who maintain a loyalty to the UK and are likely to "buy British"
through the rest of their business lives; and who.
contribute more than UK and EU students
to the cost of their tuition.
7. It is important to recognise the risks
in maintaining an internationally competitive sector with present
levels of public funding. The UK is on average the second most
expensive study destination for international students after private
universities in the United States.
THE TOTAL COST OF A DEGREE (IN US$), INCLUDING
TUITION, LIVING COSTS AND OTHER EXPENSES
|Total cost of degree
(Source: Australian Education International, 2006).
8. Many studies (most recently Hobsons' Global Recruitment
Review  which undertook an on-line survey of 28,000 students
from more than 50 countries) demonstrate that students perceive
the UK alongside the USA as providing the highest quality education.
The danger is that the more difficult it becomes for these students
to attain their ultimate career goal, the more the value of a
UK education will be questioned. Respondents to a recent Council
for International Education survey (UKCOSA, 2004) suggested 87%
of international students were satisfied or very satisfied with
their course, although the ratings were slightly higher among
undergraduates (91%) than amongst postgraduates (85%). The implications
for the UK are that as competition increases with many more affordable
options available, the UK must be able to demonstrate value for
money both in terms of quality as well as employability.
9. The ability to attract staff internationally is another
important indicator of international competitiveness. In this
respect, despite talk of a "brain drain", there appears
less cause for concern (Bekhradnia and Sastry 2005). Over the
period 1995-96 to 2002-03 there was substantial net immigrationon
average about 1.4 academics arrived for every one who left. The
UK tends to lose people in the early stages of their career, but
attracts more people than it loses at later stages in their careers
when they have built up a research reputation.
Are some parts of the sector too reliant on income from overseas
10. Over 14% of the student population in UK HEIs are
domiciled outside the UK, with a greater concentration amongst
postgraduates and particularly research postgraduates, 4 out of
10 of who are from overseas. By way of contrast, international
students comprise only 4% of the student population in American
universities, but 13% of postgraduates.
THE STUDENT COMPOSITION OF UK HEIs, 2004-05
(Source: HESA Student Record, 2006).
11. Growth in the recent past internationally has been
very considerable, with a 41% increase over the period 2000-04.
Currently 2.7 million students study outside their home country,
with more than half choosing USA, UK, France or Germany (OECD,
2006). A British Council study published in conjunction with IDP
Australia in 2003 predicted that, even with a relatively conservative
scenario, the number of students studying abroad will continue
12. Against this optimistic picture, the past two years
have seen a significant turning point in terms of the global market
The global expansion of higher education means
that there is more choice for students to stay at home to studyparticularly
at undergraduate level. In 2005, China was building universities
at the rate of one per week.
There has been a significant increase in competition
for international students. USA and Australia have been increasing
their investment in international education and developing national
initiatives. Australia's international student recruitment measures
are underpinned by £48 million over four years. The USA's
international education budget for 2006 totals $431.8 million,
$71 million more than in 2005.
Other countries are developing strategies to become
international education hubs and to attract international students.
Singapore has 18 international campuses (mainly US and Australia),
which have been created over a three year period.
Half of non-EU international students come from
just five countries (China, which accounts for almost a quarter,
USA, India, Malaysia and Hong Kong in that order), which makes
the UK very susceptible to a downturn in one or more of its major
These significant changes mean that if the Prime Minister's
Intiative is to be successful, there needs to be certainty of
continued and adequate funding. As the competition intensifies,
it is absolutely critical that we significantly increase our marketing
activity. This needs to be supported by positioning the UK at
the centre of the international education market through building
sustainable relationships with overseas education institutions
and governments. PMI 2 provides funding of £6.9 million per
annum for these activities over two years. It is critical that
funding for the full five year strategy is safeguarded and guaranteed
throughout the lifetime of the initiative. The British Council
will make provision for its share of funding of the PMI to be
a high priority in its plans for the 08/09 to 10/11 triennium.
13. In 2003-04, fees from non-EU students accounted for
8.1% of the income of English HEIs, a slightly higher proportion
on average than their research income. Sastry (2006) has shown
that LSE (33.5%) and SOAS (31.9%) earn about one-third of their
income from non-EU students, and a further 18 receive more than
one-eighth. The small surpluses of most of these HEIs would be
wiped out if their fee income were to drop by 25% which would
necessitate immediate action to offset the loss of revenue.
14. While HEIs, particularly those predicting unrealistic
increases in overseas participation, might be financially embarrassed
by a downturn, the larger risk of an over-reliance on overseas
students lies at subject level. International students comprise
more than half of the research student population in six broad
INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH STUDENTS AS % OF TOTAL
|Engineering & technology||56%
|Business & administrative studies||56%
|Architecture, building & planning||56%
(Source: analysis of HESA Student Record, 2006).
15. Some disciplines have a much higher exposure: for
example, international students account for 63% of the research
student body in Electric and Electronic Engineering and in Architecture,
74% in Finance and 78% in Accounting. As these are national averages,
individual departments will be even more susceptible to a sudden
16. It is not part of the British Council's role to express
an opinion on the principles or methodology of funding higher
education. However, it is in a position to comment on issues which
arise from the current funding regime, which should inform debate
about future policy.
17. The very substantial increase in overseas student
numbers over the last twenty years can be considered to be a great
British (and British Council) success story. However, it is arguable
that the recruitment and admissions policies of HEIs have been
distorted by the gap between the total income they receive for
a home/EU undergraduate (in fee income and HEFCE support) and
the fee income from an international student, allied with the
premium price that overseas student are prepared to pay for a
UK education at all levels. This undergraduate differential has
been reduced with the partial deregulation of fees for students
commencing their studies in 2006, but it remains substantial (Table
UNIVERSITY INCOME (IN £) FOR TWO CATEGORIES OF STUDENT,
|Arts/social science student||3,721
(Sources: HEFCE, 2006 and Universities UK, 2006).
*Note 1: For the 93% of HEIs which are charging
the maximum £3,000.
18. The range of undergraduate fees charged to overseas
students (UniversitiesUK, 2006), after the current level of HEFCE
support is taken into account, might be considered indicative
of the fees which would be charged to home/EU students should
fees be totally deregulated. While this would address the issue
of differential pricing, it is difficult to see how leading institutions,
lacking significant endowment income, could operate "needs
blind" admissions policies without cross subsidising between
students on the basis of ability to pay.
Is there clear intention behind the balance of post-graduate
and undergraduate international students being sought?
19. The present balance is the consequence of market
forces. The relative demand for undergraduate and postgraduate
programmes is largely driven by value for money. Most countries
in the developed and developing world have expanded their capacity
to educate undergraduate students. It makes economic sense for
students to undertake their undergraduate study (which on average
takes three to four years) in their own country, or a country
which is cheaper than the UK, and then to study for a one (calendar)
year taught Master's degree in the UK. The UK has a competitive
advantage in that these programmes are at least six months shorter
than in competitor countries.
20. Taught postgraduate enrolments by EU and other international
students increased by 120% between 1996-97 and 2004-05 (compared
with a 36% increase in first degree enrolments and 44% in research
degree registrations). The distribution of international students
in the UK by level in 2004-05 is shown in Table 5: nearly as many
international students are now studying taught postgraduate programmes
as are reading for first degrees.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS BY LEVEL OF STUDY 2005-05
|Level of study||EU
(Source: HESA Student Record, 2006).
21. This changing balance of take-up of one year programmes
compared with three year programmes is putting pressure on UK
institutions, which have to increase the number of students they
recruit each year to maintain their enrolment levels. HEIs have
to recruit 188,000 students each year to maintain the current
international student population of 344,000 students. This in
turn makes them more vulnerable to sudden downturns in demand
Is this balance an area where the market should be managed?
Can it be managed?
22. It is in the long-term interests of HEIs to manage
admissions to their taught postgraduate programmes to ensure that
they do not have overly-high levels of representation of international
students within their overall student body. The UKCOSA survey
(paragraph 10) suggests that there is a correlation between integration
with UK students and satisfaction with value for money. There
is a real danger that the domination of degree programmes, particularly
Master's programmes, by international students (and frequently
by students from a small number of origins) will have an impact
on student satisfaction.
23. This would otherwise be difficult to manage. International
student scholarships might be redistributed in favour of longer
programmes both in individual HEIs and nationally (the Chevening
Scholarships, for example, are generally awarded for at most one
year), but this would make a minimal impact given the number of
scholars to total enrolees.
24. The British Council believes the Bologna Process
provides a framework to encourage the convergence of higher education
systems in Europe as an important component of the internationalisation
of higher education.
Advantages and disadvantages
25. The framework founded on three cycles (levels) of
degree based on learning outcomes should increase the transparency
of European degrees and facilitate students moving between national
education systems as they progress through the cycles. This is
complemented by the determination of many European governments,
particularly in the east, to use the Bologna Process as a tool
to improve the quality of their higher education systems. Given
the long-standing propensity of continental European students
to look to the UK for part of their education, this should serve
to increase the number of suitably qualified applicants to UK
universities at postgraduate level.
26. The most significant threat is to UK Master's programmes,
which the country is heavily reliant on for its competitive advantage
in attracting international students (paragraph 22). The agreement
at the Helsinki Conference in 2003 that a Masters degree should
have a minimum of 60 ECTS credits (the equivalent of an academic
year) at Master's level is positive in this respect, but it is
difficult to envisage how integrated Master's degrees, which do
not differentiate between the first and second cycle, could be
considered to comply with the framework. The absence of machinery
for enforcement and interpretation enables countries to adopt
their own approaches to achieving Bologna objectives. However,
it also means there is no possibility of a ruling that the learning
outcomes of UK Masters programmes are equal to those in other
countries of longer duration.
27. In these circumstances, a perception that, as other
European countries move towards 3+2 year or 4+1 year route to
a second-cycle qualification, UK Master's degrees were not of
the same standard could significantly harm UK HEIs. It could be
particularly severe if it led to professional degrees not being
recognised for purposes of progression to professional qualification
in other countries. Debates in the European Parliament in 2005
on the Directive on Recognition of Professional Qualifications
highlighted this danger.
28. It is also worth noting how Bologna is perceived
by our key competitors. Australia held a conference in 2005 to
assess the feasibility of an Asia Pacific Education Area. It concluded
that this was not possible as the priorities for East Asia are
capacity building at this stage. As a result, Australia is considering
adoption of the Bologna model in order to continue to be seen
as being of high quality and relevant to international standards
and requirements. This demonstrates how key competitors see Bologna
as a source of competitive advantage for Europe.
Opportunities to enhance the mobility of students from the
29. The low, and declining, outward mobility of UK students
is a cause for concern in an increasingly global age. However,
it is unlikely that the implementation of the Bologna Process
will impact greatly on this. A report (HEFCE, 2004), International
Student Mobility, commissioned by the British Council and nine
other national organisations, suggested that reluctance to study
abroad in Europe was largely attributable to poor language skills
and financial constraints; a minority of interviewees suggested
that credit transfer at an appropriate academic level (which Bologna
would address) was a major concern. The Steering Group which guided
the study made a number of recommendations for various partiesincluding
the Government, HEIs, the funding councils and national organisations
to consider in an attempt to increase participation.
The broader impact of Bologna across Europe
30. It is difficult at this stage to judge the likely
impact on the UK if the ambition to develop the European Higher
Education Area (EHEA) as a brand is realised. Arguably, as the
major provider of international higher education in Europe, the
UK stands to lose market share as other countries in EHEA take
advantage of increased visibility, particularly as many countries
are now offering postgraduate degrees through the medium of English.
On the other hand, the higher visibility of Europe, allied with
HEIs grasping opportunities to offer degree programmes in conjunction
with European partners, might persuade students to forsake other
traditional English-speaking markets, such as USA and Canada,
in favour of the UK.
31. There has been a tendency for HEIs, (students from
Europe are not counted in PMI2 targets despite the benefits they
bring), to look at EU students as poor relations in the scramble
to recruit high-fee students. In the British Council's view this
is not entirely sensible. There are significant advantages in
being more closely immersed in EHEA, not least a large pool of
well-trained scientists and technologists.
Australian Education International (2006). The International
Education Market in Thailand, A Research Report commissioned
by Australian Education International.
Bekhradnia, B and T Sastry (2005), Brain Drain: Migration
of Academic Staff to and from the UK, Higher Education Policy
Institute Report 17, Oxford.
Bekhradnia, B, C Whithall and T Sastry (2006), The Academic
Experience of Students in English Universities, Higher Education
Policy Institute Report 27, Oxford .
Johnes, G (2004), The Global Value of Education and Training
Exports to the UK Economy, British Council, London.
HEFCE (2004), International Student Mobility, Higher
Education Funding Council for England, Issues paper 30 (web only).
HEFCE (2006), Funding higher education in England; how
HEFCE allocates its funds, Higher Education Funding Council
for England Report 17, Bristol.
HESA (2006) Students in Higher Education Institutions
2004-05, Higher Education Statistics Agency, Cheltenham .
Hobsons (2006) "Global Recruitment Review", paper
presented at Going Global Conference, Edinburgh.
OECD (2006), Education at a Glance, Organisation for
Economic Cooperation and Development, Washington.
Sastry (2006), How exposed are English universities to
reductions in demand from international students? Higher Education
Policy Institute Report 22, Oxford .
UKCOSA (2004), Broadening Our Horizons: International
Students in UK Universities and Colleges, UKCOSA, London.
UniversitiesUK (2006), Survey of Tuition Fees for International
students, 2006-07, UniversitiesUK (web only).