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Charity to position UK as “ethical recruiter”

A charity has been launched to support the countries from which the UK most recruits international students – a move that could give the country a competitive edge as an “ethical” study destination in the future.

Trustee Martin Hookham presenting the UKHE charity at the Education UK Partnership Conference last weekTrustee Martin Hookham presenting the UKHE charity at the Education UK Partnership Conference last week

“UK universities and companies are benefiting hugely from international recruitment, but the question remains, ‘what are we giving back?'"

With the working title ‘the UKHE Charity’, it plans to raise funds from UK higher education stakeholders to support the development of primary and secondary education in countries such as China, India and Nigeria.

It hopes that by delivering campaigns through British universities and organisations abroad, it can improve the UK’s image as a study destination, off-setting negative perceptions of the profits gained though international tuition fees.

“UK universities and companies are benefiting hugely from international recruitment, but the question remains, ‘what are we giving back to those countries?’” said the charity’s trustee, Emma Heathcote.

On how the charity would benefit UK universities, she said: “Where companies brand themselves as ethical or responsible, that has in some cases become a new competitive advantage. If we can position the UK as responsible recruiter that gives back to the countries from which it recruits, one would hope this places us well against competitor recruitment countries.”

The charity, which is being sponsored by the British Council, presented its goals at the Education UK Partnership Conference in Edinburgh last week. Its proposals include promoting the charitable efforts of UK universities worldwide, and lobbying university rankings such as QS and Times Higher Education to use corporate social responsibility as criteria.

Professor Paul Jackson, Professor of International Development at the University of Birmingham, called the charity “ingenious”.

“Although we are all convinced of the benefits that UK higher education offers our international students, we should remember that these are a privileged few. It’s time for the UK higher education sector to clean up its act, and reposition its global ambitions in the context of global responsibility,” he said.

Heathcote, one of the trustees, explained that the idea had initially been launched through BUILA – the British Universities’ International Liaison Association, and she had received an incredible response to the idea, with more than 100 industry colleagues supportive of the idea.

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