Building on success

The purpose of International Higher Education Commission is to develop recommendations for a new ‘International Education Strategy 2.0’ in partnership with the higher education community. The Commission is Chaired by the Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP. Oxford International Education Group is supporting this initiative as part of its commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility and ongoing engagement with the sector.

Building on success

The first International Education Strategy, launched by Chris Skidmore as Universities Minister in 2019, was a pivotal moment in UK Higher Education. For the first time, the strategic ambition of the UK in this crucial area was clearly articulated, and a policy framework across Government was established to deliver the strategy in a coherent and compelling way.

That strategy proved an important element in the subsequent success of the UK Higher Education sector, with the UK having already surpassed the 2030 target of 600,000 international students. However, there are increasing questions about where that strategy takes us, the consequences of it for the sector and stakeholders, and speculation that future policy announcements may be made on international student visas in the context of changed geo-politics since 2019 that are at variance with the vital role that UK HE plays socially and economically.

It is time then to revisit the strategic framework for UK HE and to establish a clear narrative around the significant social, cultural, and economic benefits that international students bring to the UK; how international students influence the learning and other experiences of domestic students; and the wider links of international students to the international research, reach out and knowledge transfer role that universities perform. The Commission will define the means and mechanisms by which we can deliver those benefits through an evidence based approach engaging with sources of data and insight across the sector.

Addressing key issues

During the limited time that international students spend in the UK, they bring much needed social, cultural and economic capital, establishing a human bridge that fosters global dialogues and overseas investment. When they return to their home countries, they continue to facilitate life-long links which the UK continues to benefit from, politically and economically. Universities have already stepped up to challenge wholeheartedly, yet need greater support across government to maintain a globally attractive international student proposition. Engagement with the world through UK higher education is rightly regarded as the jewel in the UK crown, opening doors as the source of many opportunities for UK and its citizens. So, the Commission will seek to address the key issues and questions that face the international education sector and future student pathways including:-

  • What should a future student number target be set at, given the broader policy and economic objectives of the UK?
  • What are the future target countries that the UK should be working with to establish or expand future international student pathways, and how do these link to international research collaboration and knowledge transfer?
  • How can we make sure that universities do not become overdependent on specific countries for recruitment, and what does a sustainable recruitment strategy look like?
  • How should local regions develop tailored local international education strategies and plans to reflect local strengths and priorities? What should a future visa offering for international students look like?
  • How can the UK continue to be competitive in its international offer to students, recognising other countries such as Canada, Australia and the US will also seek to attract students?
  • How can we help international students to fully integrate on campus by taking an inclusive approach to international education, and the same time realise benefits for domestic students?
  • How can we prioritise student welfare and success so that international students have the best possible experience of life in the UK?
  • How can we make sure that student numbers are matched to accommodation and support services?