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London pulls together in “world’s top study destination” bid

Higher education institutions across London are collaboratively pushing the government for a range of initiatives that they say are needed to increase the city’s attractiveness to international student markets.

Security threats from "hostile actors", including intellectual property theft and academic espionage, are not currently listed on the London Risk Register, the report notes. Photo: pexels

Beech acknowledged that the strategy for London is "not about asserting London’s dominance over other UK towns and cities"

In the newly-released International Education Strategy for London, led by London Higher, stakeholders across the UK capital have presented recommendations to “maximise London’s pulling power in the international education market”.

It will, in turn, contribute to the growth of the entire UK economy, the partners behind the document say.

The lead recommendation is to establish a dedicated International Education Champion for London who will work alongside the UK’s International Education Champion, Sir Steve Smith, who was appointed in 2020.

“London often acts as a gateway to international students and researchers wanting to engage with British higher education and is home to a diverse range of globally renowned higher education institutions,” Diana Beech, CEO of the representative body for over 40 universities and higher education colleges, said in a statement.

The strategy aims to complement the national International Education Strategy, and will “ensure that our capital keeps delivering for the growth of the country”, Beech continued.

Other recommendations include piloting a new single pathway student visa that will “incentivise” undergraduate international students to progress more easily to postgraduate qualifications.

It also calls on the UK government to deliver “targeted, regional-specific” information for international postgraduate students to “increase the conversion rate into postgraduate research to support London’s R&D capabilities”.

“The recommendation for piloting a new single pathway student visa is particularly important”

The mayor of London has been urged to add potential research security risks to the London Risk Register – that the regional elected body introduced to summarise emergencies that may affect the city – to “ensure the capital is protecting against attacks on its extensive R&D sector which is essential for national economic growth”.

Additionally, a London-wide service quality kitemark for international education pathway providers should be created, a commitment for access to purpose-built student accommodation made, and a dedicated resource within the Greater London Authority introduced “to work on campaigns which not only promote the city and its opportunities specifically to international students”.

The strategy asks London’s higher education institutions for “greater transparency and provision of up-to-date information about the true costs of living in the capital, a commitment to the strategic use of global alumni networks, and innovative thinking around TNE provision among others”.

Specific institution types have been advised on different points too.

Large, research-intensive institutions should focus on new markets where students can be “harnessed” to stay on to study through to PhD-level, it reads.

Modern, technical, vocational and professional institutions should expand international postgraduate research populations with more industry-facing PhDs including work placements, it adds.

Specialist arts institutions should clarify application processes and consider developing “sustainable solutions” to auditions and application assessment, while specialist science institutions “need to be alert to the implications [of] other countries’ earlier application deadlines” and need to maintain interest with investment in “powerful communications” over the New Year period.

All the recommendations in the report have a strong focus on growth, the partners added, centring on “increasing the UK’s education exports, improving London’s R&D capabilities and ensuring the transparency of information available to prospective international students and staff”.

In May, initial outlines of the strategy were discussed at an event in central London.

“We want to work with the government and our closest stakeholders to maintain the UK’s global competitiveness and attractiveness to international education markets through the advantages that London’s higher education sector has to offer, for the benefit of the entire nation,” Beech added.

Chair of APPG for London as a Global City Gareth Bacon MP said that “attracting and retaining a pipeline of international talent is vital to London’s success, given its education sector generates £12 billion GDP”. 

Guidance to enhance the conversion of postgraduate researchers to London’s R&D, which helps to drive foreign direct investment to the UK, would also help the capital to remain competitive against other global city rivals.”

The APPG’s 2022 report called on the Department for Education to explore “possible extensions” to the Turing Scheme to “enthuse students from across the world, enhance a pipeline of global talent” and enhance the city’s appeal, Bacon noted.

Former Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Jo Johnson, urged that the recommendations must be heeded to “ensure that London’s higher education institutions can continue to provide considerable benefits to the growth of the UK economy”.

“The recommendation for piloting a new single pathway student visa is particularly important to making the UK and its capital even more attractive to international students, opening the door for them to experience our world-leading universities and progress more easily onto postgraduate study and research,” he said.

Writing in the foreword of the document, Beech acknowledged that the strategy for London is “not about asserting London’s dominance over other UK towns and cities”.

“Instead, it sends a clear signal to government that London’s higher education sector remains committed to remaining open, inclusive and international in the face of intense global and domestic change,” she said.

“London will continue to do its best as a region to maintain the UK’s global competitiveness and growth for the benefit of the entire nation.”

“As global competition continues to increase, we must ensure that the UK’s competitive advantage is maintained, and the International Education Strategy for London demonstrates a variety of ways this can be done through using the capital’s reputation and links to business,” Amanda Broderick, vice-chancellor & president at University of East London and chair of the London Higher board, said.

“We must ensure that the UK’s competitive advantage is maintained”

“London has a globally renowned, world-class education offer and a significant presence in international markets which will strengthen and support the ambitions of the UK-wide International Education Strategy.”

Oxford International Education Group, QS (Quacquarelli Symonds), IDP ConnectNousStudy Group, along with Chris Skidmore MP and the London Higher International Network, were all involved in shaping the strategy.

“London is one of the world’s great cities, QS is privileged to be headquartered here and to have had the opportunity to contribute to the International Education Strategy,” Ben Sowter, QS senior vice president, commented.

“Whilst we’re known for comparative data on institutional performance, we also have the capability to zoom out and look at ecosystems, clusters and locations. The breath of that insight is reflected in the number and range of references to QS insights in the final version of this important report.”

“The International Education Strategy for London provides an important framework for how the UK Government, the London Mayor’s Office and London higher education institutions can all work together to maintain and build upon London’s reputation as the world’s top study destination,” Mary Stiasny and Nina Davies, chairs of London Higher’s International Network added.

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