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ASEAN: UK export minister on promotional tour

The UK’s minister for exports, Marcus Fysh, is visiting Thailand in a bid to promote British education businesses to the ASEAN region this week.

BETT Asia is taking place in Thailand's capital on October 11-12. Photo: DIT

DIT is working with British education providers to develop their presence in Asia

Joining the BETT Asia show with a delegation 12 British firms, Fysh said the government wants to “see more British businesses entering the global education market”.

“The UK’s education sector is one of the jewels in the crown of our service exports, and I’m pleased to see so many British businesses on display here at BETT Asia,” he said.

“It’s through tradeshows like BETT Asia that businesses can really thrive and sell their services to the world. When more businesses export, it generates jobs and growth for the economy.”

The Department for International Trade is hoping to help UK education exports hit £35bn by 2030 – a key target of the country’s international education strategy. In 2019, education exports contributed £25.2bn to the UK economy.

Opening the BETT Asia conference, Fysh stated that Britain “shares” a passion for education with Thailand and the nations of ASEAN.

“Let’s work together now to strengthen our ties in education, and bring a new generation of young people in the UK, Thailand and across ASEAN together through the power of learning,” he told delegates.

As ASEAN’s newest Dialogue Partner, the UK is “committed to deepening cooperation” in the education, the minister said.

“We must work side-by-side with ASEAN nations to remove barriers to partnership in this field… setting our schools, colleges and universities free to thrive in each other’s markets.”

Government-to-government engagement is helping to make progress, he suggested.

He pointed to the Joint Economic and Trade Committee that the UK and Thailand formed in June – “which could be the first step towards a free trade agreement” – and the five-year Plan of Action agreed with ASEAN members in August as initiatives that could “help us unleash more of our shared trading potential”.

He also indicated the importance of memorandums of understanding the UK has signed with Malaysia and Vietnam, and another upcoming with Thailand, that “provide a framework for trade-led growth”.

The minister’s trip comes shortly after the UK home secretary was heavily criticised by UK stakeholders for comments calling for fewer international students, and their dependents, to come to the UK.

“We are welcoming an ever-growing number of international students to our shores, with more than 600,000 studying in the UK at present,” Fysh said in Thailand.

Tens of thousands more are studying overseas for British higher education qualifications, he added, suggesting that the “global pandemic has fuelled demand from students for education to be delivered at the click of a button in their home nations”.

Along with the UK transnational education provisions, the “power of digital technology” will drive demand, he continued.

“British edtech providers are ahead of the curve in this field”

“British edtech providers are ahead of the curve in this field,” he said, “offering world class expertise in areas such as artificial intelligence, mixed reality and immersive content…with the UK attracting around 40% of all European investment in edtech.”

DIT is working with British education providers to develop their presence in Asia, he added, pointing to the successful support of Pearson to secure a 2018 MoU with the Thai Ministry of Education to recognise its BTEC qualifications in the Southeast Asian country.

Currently just one in 10 British businesses export, according to UK government statistics.

“I would like to invite more UK providers to follow Pearson’s example and use our support to enter this dynamic market… and harness the many other opportunities for growth emerging here in Thailand and across Asia for those with the ambition and determination to embrace them,” Fysh concluded.

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