From education to employment

South East Colleges Target Chinese Market; Lauded by College Body in South East

Education in Britain has become a booming export business. Universities are expanding both their offshore and online programmes to meet the demand of foreign students, mainly from Asia, the South Pacific, and the Middle East who are eager for courses taught in English.

It was estimated that in 2005 China had three million students wanting English language university courses, while demand in India is expected to rise from 141,700 students to 639,000 within the next two decades. One only has to look at the number of international leaders who have studied in Britain, seeking to make the most of the high quality further and higher education facilities on offer to appreciate the reputation for excellence they have.

Prestigious Reputation

According to a MORI poll conducted in 2003, overseas students see UK education as the best in the world. The largest study ever into the experience of international students, commissioned by the British Council, shows the UK remains the first choice destination for international students. The study cited the student’s belief in the outstanding academic reputation of the further education institutions and the high regard in which qualifications from such institutions are held as decisive in their choice of the UK.

With this in mind, colleges in South East England are increasingly targeting China with a view to selling vocational and academic training. Alan Corbett, speaking on behalf of the Association of South east Colleges (AoSEC), said: “Congratulations must go to Further Education Colleges for their proactive approach to targeting Chinese students. Chichester College has just won The Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its work with international students and other colleges, such as City College Brighton & Hove, have likewise established a fine reputation for quality training.

“Chinese students seeking academic training are increasingly turning to sixth form colleges in the region,” he continued, “and Strode’s College in Egham is but one example of a UK educational organisation providing international students with quality schooling.”

Regional Response to the Bigger Picture

This is not an isolated case; rather, it is best understood as a regional response to a nationwide and Government wide initiative that was introduced in 1999 to help encourage students from overseas to study in the UK. By streamlining the visa application process for international students, by removing the requirements for said students to seek permission form job centres before they can work, and by expanding the number of students eligible for the Chevening Scholarship the Government hopes to increase its global share of higher education students.

It wishes to account for 25% of the global market share of Higher Education Students, and also wants to increase the number of international students studying in Further Education institutions by 100 %. This is a win – win scenario. Those people who are educated here have a long lasting tie to this country, promoting Britain around the world, helping British trade and British diplomacy. Young people also benefit, as they gain from the window on the world which contact with international students gives them.

The extra recruitment of non-EU students has already generated over 1₤bn for the UK economy, while British exports of education and training are worth 8₤bn a year, money that feeds into Further Education institutions, opening up opportunities for more people to study.

Michael de la Fuente

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