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Ukraine, TNE and UK policy in spotlight at BUILA

The power of education is a “force to help us solve global challenges”, and the sector is no stranger to those challenges and “overcoming them”, the UK’s international education champion said at the BUILA Conference on July 7.

The UK’s international education champion addressed delegates at the BUILA Conference on July 7

“I am extremely proud of the prosperity in the last few years and as we step into the future, the positive lessons we’ve learnt in the past year will play a crucial part in growing the UK education offering and strengthening the UK’s global agenda,” Steve Smith told delegates.

“The nature of the last few years has meant that many of you will absolutely be no strangers to challenges and to overcoming them. And of course, we must not ignore the uncertainties of recent years. Your dedication has been absolutely pivotal to providing the very best possible student experience,” he continued in his recorded speech at the opening of the conference.

“The positive lessons we’ve learnt in the past year will play a crucial part in growing the UK education offering”

Sessions were held throughout the newly-hybrid conference on various topics, most notable a session on TNE and opportunities in India.

“If you compare India to places like Malaysia and China, which are that bit more mature, more stable with long standing partnerships… the hope that comes along with a change in regulatory framework [in India] is that we might start to move towards a different types of activity, engagement and internationalisation,” Rob Carthy, BUILA vice chair, said.

Sandeepa Sahay, representing the British Council, told delegates that the regulations being changed will allow for more institutions to make their own methods to attract international students.

“At the same time, these regulations have just come in and they have not really totally specified the stipulations in great clarity or detail – so the same sort of challenges we faced when the first lot came in in 2016, there isn’t much structure, and there could be a lack of trust and confidence in them,” she relented during the panel.

Another panel saw an outlook on responses made by both the UUKi and one of the UK institutions amid the most recent crises the world has faced – most notably, the war in Ukraine.

Charley Robinson, the head of global mobility policy at UUKi, explained that the government humanitarian response, unlike the university counterpart, is inevitability “aligned to historical geopolitical ties”, as well as economic and peacekeeping considerations

“The UK government has to consider the optics around government spending and immigration quite carefully,” Robinson remarked.

She stressed the importance that, in reality, both institutions and governing bodies like UUKi, and even the UK government, should be working towards preparedness on other crises, as this will certainly not be the last.

“We’ve been conscious of trying to build mechanisms that will work on this crisis and work further for all future crises as well, as that the sector isn’t always fighting the last battle,” she continued.

“We are incredibly passive – I think that’s a real challenge for some of us in UK higher education”

The director of international relations at the University of Bath Lily Rumsey also said that universities shouldn’t necessarily wait around to see what the UK government is doing.

“We are incredibly passive,” she commented.“That’s a real challenge for some of us in UK higher education because we know that we’ve got students and staff that are impacted, but we hold off before we respond – having convening groups that can really start to be almost like think tanks in the space would be so helpful.”

Other sessions included a look at whether China will endure as one of the strongest markets for UK higher education, as well as looking at what can be done to shine a light on Latin America as the location for multiple source markets.

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