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Transnational education under the spotlight

The number of internationally mobile students may soon be eclipsed by students who stay local but receive their education from a foreign provider, writes Alison Goddard.

David Willetts, the universities and science minister, will today set out the case for British universities to create campuses abroad, establish joint provision with overseas providers and to invest in online learning in order to harness the predicted growth in transnational education. Mr Willetts, who will be speaking at an event organised by Regent’s University in London, is expected to say that there are few sectors of the British economy with the capacity to grow and generate export earnings as much as education. Indeed the international education strategy launched by Mr Willetts and his colleagues during the summer of 2013 is intended to exploit this potential growth. We have a section on the HE site, available only to subscribers, which outlines not only the potential extent of this market, which is difficult to identify precisely due to a lack of robust data, but also dissects related policy initiatives such as the proposal by the Quality Assurance Agency to monitor the provision of British higher education abroad.

Vice-chancellors awaiting the annual letter from Vince Cable, the business secretary, to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which will detail public spending on universities for the coming year, may find a letter from Mr Willetts to John Krebs, principal of Jesus College, Oxford, published yesterday, less than reassuring. To paraphrase, Mr Willetts notes Lord Krebs’s concerns that the science budget may be trimmed, thanks him for his support for science, highlights that George Osborne has said that he thinks science is important, too, and concludes, "We know we should back one of Britain’s greatest successes and will continue to protect the science ring-fence". The phrase does not inspire much confidence.

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