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UK’s International Ed Council focus: FE, post-study work, welcome

Despite the familiar “no cap” mantra, minutes from the latest meeting of the UK’s International Education Council (IEC) reveal that there is in fact a clear government commitment to removing barriers to enhancing international education exports.

Ensuring the UK remains competitive in FE delivery, compared with Australia and Germany for instance, is considered important

Discussions around post-study work (PSW) rights, international student experience, better recognition of FE qualifications and compliance were among the topics touched upon at the meeting held at the end of February.

An “HTS+” category for highly compliant institutions was also discussed but not seriously, although this chimes with the recent comments made by Immigration Minister James Brokenshire about compliance requirements of highly trusted sponsors (HTS).

“My reading of this situation is that BIS have joined forces with the Treasury and they’re an axis against the extremes of the Home Office”

The fact that 50% of Silicon Valley start-ups are led by international graduates was a point noted by Kit Malthouse, chair of the working group on international student recruitment (visas). Ensuring the UK did not miss out on capturing the talent it trained was one of three pressing themes that he indicated.

One source indicated that Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, is also particularly interested in “what could be done around the post-study work visa” to ensure the UK does not miss out.

A separate working group on Barriers to Exports raised four recommendations to the IEC: enhancing recognition of FE qualifications overseas; better leveraging UKTI resources and better blending international development aid with the work of BIS were among them.

Ensuring the UK remains competitive in FE delivery, compared with Australia and Germany for instance, is considered important in terms of export potential and for soft power capital.

Two new working groups were also formed at the meeting: one on the International Student Experience to chart alumni experience and develop mechanisms to gauge and improve student experience; the second to examine the UK’s success with education technology exports.

A clear rapprochement between the Home Office and diverse representatives of the IEC is also evidenced by the minutes of the meeting, with John Thompson from the Home Office agreeing on the benefits of closer liaison with the sector to discuss policy and manage the message.

One source told The PIE News: “My reading of this situation is that BIS, through Matthew Hancock (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for further education, skills & enterprise) and David Willetts, have joined forces with the Treasury, and they’re an axis, an axis against the extremes of the Home Office, and that’s what I think is the battle that’s going on at the moment.”

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