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Prime Minister on Initiative to Promote International Education Awareness

Prime Minister Tony Blair has recently released details of two five-year schemes at a press conference in Downing Street aimed at maintaining the UK’s position as a leader in international education.

This will include the promotion of the UK-India Education Research Initiative (UKIERI), aimed at improving educational and research links between India and the UK. It will also include the second phase of the Prime Minister’s Initiative for International Education (PMI), which aims to attract an additional 100,000 overseas students to study in the UK and encourage partnerships between universities and colleges in the UK and overseas.

PMI History

Tony Blair launched the first phase of the PMI at the London School of Economics (LSE) in 1999 in order to increase the number of international students studying in the UK and to encourage collaboration between universities, colleges, Government and other bodies to promote UK education abroad. It set targets to increase the number of non-EU international students studying in the UK by 75,000 by the year 2005 (50,000 in Higher Education and 25,000 in Further Education). The targets were exceeded ahead of schedule, with an extra 93,000 in HE and 23,300 in FE.

With the second stage of PMI now underway, a target has been set of bringing an extra 100,000 students into FE and HE. It will also have a wider international agenda, focusing on building sustainable partnerships between UK universities and colleges and similar institutions in other countries. It will aim to position the UK as a leader in international education; increase number of international students in UK; ensure that international students have a high quality experience; build strategic partnerships and alliances; and maintain the UK’s position in major education markets, while achieving growth in student numbers from a wider range of countries.

The Prime Minister announced the UKIERI during his visit to India in September 2005, with the aim of improving educational links between India and the UK. £12 million in funding was committed from DfES, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the British Council. A further £5 million has been committed through business sponsorship. UKIERI aims to support research projects that will bring benefit to both countries and provide opportunities for staff exchanges and secondments and joint PhDs. An estimated £27 million pounds in funding from the Government, education sector and businesses will be spent over the next two years for both programmes.

Growing Internationalism

At the recent reception for international students and programmes sponsors in Downing Street, Tony Blair said, “These links highlight the growing internationalisation of education at all levels. Increasingly, education is crossing national boundaries as it prepares our young people for careers in the global economy. I am passionate about raising standards in education in our country, but that means that we must be willing to learn from the best in the world. It means sharing experience and knowledge and being open to innovation and creativity from whatever direction it comes.

“And it’s not just about getting students to choose UK universities and colleges,” he continued. “It’s about building sustainable partnerships between our universities and colleges and those of other countries. We want to see many more shared research projects, shared courses and joint degrees; we want to see more exchanges of students and academic staff; we want UK education to become genuinely international.

“Business also has a role to play, and I”m particularly delighted to welcome BP, BAE Systems, GlaxoSmithKline and Shell on board as Corporate Champions for the new UK-India Education and Research Initiative,” he concluded. BP, BAE Systems, GlaxoSmithKline and Shell have each offered support of around £1million to the cause. Tata Group is the first Indian company to participate in the initiative, offering to support academic visits in key areas of research.

Lord Kinnock Sees Education as Core

Also at the reception were Education Minister Bill Rammell, Lord Kinnock, Chair of the British Council, senior business leaders and representatives from the UK Higher and Further Education Sectors. Lord Kinnock had this to say: “We very much welcome these initiatives and will play our full part in supporting them financially and organisationally. Education is at the core of everything that the British Council seeks to achieve because international learning builds international understanding as well as opportunity, creativity and liberty. These initiatives will help the UK to build lasting relationships of mutual benefit with the people whose talents will shape our World in the 21st century.”

Baroness Blackstone, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Greenwich (which has over 3,000 international students from more than 100 countries) was also present. She said: “Students from around the world who study in the UK will benefit from a long tradition of high quality education with intensive, well taught courses. When they complete their studies their British qualifications will serve them well in the global economy. British universities and colleges and their students also benefit greatly from working with people from all over the world. We learn from each other.”

Total funding for the global promotion of UK education over the next two years (2006-7 and 2007-8) will be over £27 million of which £3 million is earmarked for UK/Africa partnership initiatives, £2 million for UK/Russia partnerships and £4 million for UK/China for scholarships and other partnerships ““ as well as £7.5 million for the UK/India Education and Research Initiative.

Paul Keely

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