The PIE News – You’ve spoken about the importance of investment staying strong as the UK goes into Brexit – and making sure that the ship of UK education abroad keeps sailing – can you tell me what’s already been put in place and what’s planned for making sure the investment transition stays afloat?
GS: With the EU, our aim is as seamless and frictionless an arrangement as we can come up with, and that’s obviously still in negotiation. Part and parcel of that is mutual recognition around accreditation in all sorts of fields – of which education will be a key one.
That work is ongoing and taken very seriously.
“We have no cap on the number of students studying in the UK”
Outside of the EU, we have 14 working groups from Australia to China, and a bunch of other countries around the world, who we are working on what our future arrangements will look like with them. And there’s just an enormous appetite out there to do business with [British educators].
I’m optimistic. Doing this job I realise the baggage the EU carries in terms of the vested interests it needs to protect, which we simply don’t have. This means that our economy matches tremendously well with countries in the world which are expected to be expanding fastest.
And therefore without prejudging the outcomes of any negotiations, but certainly informed by the conversations that have taken place so far, I’m optimistic we will actually have better access to the parts of the world which will be going faster than we had previously with the EU. So from that point of view it’s pretty positive.
PIE – You’ve previously talked about relations with China and the support DIT and DfE are giving to international schools – can you expand on that, and does that relate to HE? Is TNE where the government thinks growth in China, India for example, is coming from?
GS – Transnational education has grown enormously and is now [worth] £1.7bn to the UK and is up something like 50% in the last few years. So I think it’s going to continue to play an important role, but that’s out of an overall export value of about £19bn overall for education.
So it’s significant, and growing, but obviously not dominant. But we’ve seen an enormous appetite around the world for British education, and my department exists to help deliver what only government can deliver, in terms of convening, government relations.
“We think education at home and education exports are mutually reinforcing”
As you saw at the BETT show – there’s tremendous UK presence in the edtech [and] education supply [sectors]. Making sure that our curriculum, institution and technological offer is better coordinated is something we’re working on and which I’m hearing positive words back from the industry more broadly.
I think if we tie them together and speak as one, we are more likely to help independent schools and others get the best out of and give their best to the international market.
PIE – People are enthused by talk of entrepreneurship from students post-study, but making sure that continues is a concern. How do you respond to those concerns?
GS – We’re keen to see people who come and get educated here at any level, we’d like them to extend their educational journey and stay and benefit from it. Of course we have no cap on the number of students studying in the UK and the numbers are growing.
So I think we’re a welcoming nation in that respect and we think that [with] global demand growing, especially for the best education available, and that’s what the UK offers. And there is ample opportunity to see it grow in the future.
PIE – COBIS recommends that practices are put in place to assist schools with attracting teachers with international experience back to the UK – or making sure the flow remains. Will your department support that?
“HE in the Middle East… we think has got a big opportunity for UK investments”
GS – I think COBIS are on to something, and without being able to make immediate promises, I think the government will look extremely favourably at the report and recognise the central importance of teaching supply to the education system.
And if we can create a more robust regime that means those who enter education whether in or outside the UK, and have the required standards, can be encouraged and supported and facilitated to stay in education, wherever that may be, that is to the strength of the UK education offer.
I will bring this to my next meeting with the Education office and Damien Hinds, the Education secretary.
PIE – What is the relationship between the current secretary and yourself on the investment side of the education business?
GS – Sam [Gyimah, minister for universities] attended the last ministerial sector advisory group meeting, so we coordinate. That was with representatives of the whole breadth of the UK education sector, from HE to early years. We continue to work closely together.
I met recently with Damien Hinds, and I’m looking to meet with him again… to make sure we are as coordinated as possible in ensuring that we act as one HM government in supporting education at home and equally supporting exports abroad. We think those two are mutually reinforcing rather than competitive.
PIE – You’ve previously cited China, India and Malaysia as the big targets for education export, what other target areas have you identified?
GS- Well there’s English language training in Latin America for instance, there’s HE in the Middle East which we think has got a big opportunity, edtech in ASEAN and the Middle East.
So we have to prioritise, but actually we are seeing demand from all over the world and one of our challenges is to use finite resources and focus those on where the greatest potential in terms of economic value for the UK lies.