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UK’s message on ‘Brightest and Best’ not helpful says CEO

Britain’s message around international education – increasingly becoming a commercial export now worth £15 billion per year – is focusing on quality and not quantity and threatening Britain’s share of international students, according to the CEO of Sannam S4, an India-based company helping UK institutions recruit in India and China.

Adrian Mutton, CEO of Sannam S4, argued this week that the UK's market share is in decline and its message could be seen as elitist.

New and innovative ways of positioning an overseas education are drawing people away from the UK

Speaking at an event this week, Adrian Mutton questioned if David Willetts’ message that the UK is only open to the Brightest and the Best students was benefiting only the Russell Group and other leading institutions. He made the point: is there a role for mid-ranking universities and FE colleges who recruit students with a range of academic profiles?

The UK’s position as an education exporter was under discussion at a conference Exporting Excellence: Sustaining and Growing Britain’s Global Education Share, at which Mutton was a speaker.

He urged the audience – last year, 34% were education providers – to follow the US’s example of seeing overseas students as way to connect with the next generation of corporate leaders, rather than pure revenue generators.

“The old guard of the UK, Australia and the US are being challenged by Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Malaysia, Ireland and Singapore, which are all experiencing double-digit growth in the number of students choosing to study there,”  he said.

Emphasising the UK’s need to further its competitiveness, Mutton quoted countries offering more innovative opportunities including University of Lakehead in Canada. It recently entered India with a view to provide both an education and direct employment post-study – in mining, geological and finance – to its Indian students.

The institution recently entered India with a view to provide both an education and direct employment post-study

Within Europe, Mutton noted that Dublin and Limerick Universities both offer opportunities for salaried post-graduate jobs with blue chip companies in Ireland, and Tyndall University in Cork has established work programmes with Intel. Such initiatives have grown Ireland’s recruitment numbers by 100% from India year on year.

New and innovative ways of positioning an overseas education are drawing people away from the UK, Mutton explained.

He also called on institutions to develop a more tailored approach to recruiting students from India and China. In China, a UK education has strong recognition among private and public employers and so for Chinese students the value is high.

However in India, the public sector (India’s largest employer) will not recruit candidates with a one year Masters degree, and, according to a forthcoming Sannam S4 White Paper, private sector companies in India are largely ambivalent to Indian graduates with a UK degree.

Sannam S4 helps over 150 international educational establishments recruit students from China and India, two of the fastest growing source markets expected to contribute 855,000 and 376,000 students to the mobile student population.

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