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UK: Universities Minister puts weight behind outbound study

A website designed to assist UK higher education institutions in encouraging more students to study abroad was launched this week by Universities Minister Greg Clark at Universities UK (UUK)’s national conference, where UUK leader Christopher Snowdon called on policymakers to implement more favourable immigration policy for international students.

Christopher Snowden, UUK President, and Universities Minister Greg Clark at this week's conference

"As part of our International Education Strategy, we are making it easier for students to gain further skills that will make them stand out to employers”

“We are breaking down barriers to mobility and making this enriching cultural experience available to as many students as possible”

The Go International website, www.go.international.ac.uk, will be a resource hub with information on studying, volunteering and working abroad as well as providing access to research and reports on the sector.

It features information on funding and the benefits of study abroad such as increased employability and graduate earnings and a study abroad pre-departure guide.

Addressing conference delegates at the University of Leeds, Clark added that the website will “act as a platform for universities and colleges to share best practice”.

“I hope you will encourage your staff and students to make use of this online hub,” he urged attendees.

The website forms part of the UK Strategy for Outward Mobility, devised by the Higher Education International Unit (IU) and launched last year, to address the low proportion of UK students who undertake study abroad.

CBI research revealed in June that just over a third of UK employers are dissatisfied with graduates’ international cultural awareness and around half are dissatisfied with graduates’ foreign language skills. Traditionally, just 14,775 – less than 1% – of UK students study abroad annually, however 43% of them are language students.

The website

The website

“As part of our International Education Strategy, we are making it easier for students to gain further skills that will make them stand out to employers,” Clark said, “By offering free, easy-to-access information, advice and guidance all in one place, this online platform gives students the best chance of turning their overseas ambitions into a reality.”

Inbound student mobility was also a key focus of the conference, with UUK President Christopher Snowden calling for “an ambitious, government-backed strategy for growth” and “more favourable post-study work opportunities” for international students.

Snowden called for “more favourable post-study work opportunities” for international students

Looking ahead to the 2015 general election, Snowden said that a change in immigration policy is needed “to realise the fantastic opportunity this country has in continuing to attract the brightest and the best internationals students and staff to our shores” and that the incoming government must work with universities to attract well-qualified international students and staff to the UK.

Over the next eight months, UUK will urge politicians to address internationalisation and immigration as one of three key areas in higher education policy, along with research and innovation and student funding.

“UK degrees are recognised worldwide and right now we are educating students from some of the strongest growing economies, including India, China, Brazil and Nigeria,” Snowdon said.

“Recently however, this positive contribution has been overshadowed by the changes to the student visa and immigration regime, creating a strong adverse perception in many countries, and after a period of strong growth, the decline in numbers of international students from some parts of the world is a serious concern.”

Shadow Universities, Science and Skills Minister Liam Byrne confirmed in a speech at the conference that Labour would remove international students from net migration figures if they are voted in in May, attacking Clark for failing to make the same pledge.

“To be world class, you have to welcome the world’s best minds,” he said. “Not ban them, because somehow you’re ‘full’.”

“No one wants open-door immigration… But legitimate overseas students boost not burden our economy; they enrich not endanger our future,” he added. “And that’s why Labour would remove legitimate international students from the net migration target.”

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