From education to employment

PMI Initiative Bringing More International Students to UK Through Closer Partnerships

The April press conference at Downing Street to promote attracting foreign students, writes Paul Keely, FE News Reporter, gave us an insight into Tony Blair’s planned future educational schemes.

There he announced that the UK intends to form closer educational links with India in a partnership called the United Kingdom India Education Research Initiative (UKIERI). He also explained about the second phase of his Prime Minister’s Initiative for International Education (PMI), which will include attracting up to 100,000 foreign students to study in the UK by forming closer links with colleges and universities overseas.

Already Undertaken

The first phase of the PMI had already been undertaken in 1999, when Tony Blair had set a target of a 75,000 increase in non-EU international students in Britain by 2005 and met it with ease. Both of these schemes are intended to keep the UK at the forefront of international education and to build strategic partnerships and alliances with colleges and universities abroad.

At the moment, they seem to be doing just that. Mr. Blair announced the UKIERI in September 2005 as an aim to support research projects that will bring benefit to both the UK and India and provide opportunities for staff exchanges and secondments and joint PhDs. The Department for Education and Skills (DfES), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the British Council sponsor the majority of this programme.

However, a further £5 million has been committed through business sponsorship garnered from BP, BAE Systems, GlaxoSmithKline and Shell. At the press conference, there was also mention made of other proposed partnerships with universities and institutions in Russia, Africa and China ““ all of which have a funding budget of £2 million, £3 million and £4 million respectively.

An Encouraging Step

All in all, there has been a very positive response to both the UK-India partnership scheme and the PMI. Forming close links with India, and also Russia, Africa and China, can only be good for expanding educational possibilities. It will enable countries to teach and learn from each other, as well as promote rewarding student exchange programmes.

It is also very encouraging to see the large sponsorship contribution made to the UKIERI by BP, BAE Systems, GlaxoSmithKline and Shell. Company sponsorship is a huge boost to educational schemes and to the businesses themselves. Not only do they have the chance to promote apprenticeships that will provide well-trained graduates for their companies, but they also have the chance to promote their business in the partner country.

To keep the UK a leader in international education, a key component is to have a large body of international students. Targets for this have been set and met successfully. Some have argued that it would be better to focus on the welfare of UK students and their university places before increasing the number of incoming non-nationals. But these people must be assured that not only can we cope with the increase, we gladly welcome them as a means to further diversify and enrich the quality of life in the UK, and in turn, international education.

Paul Keely

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