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Jo Johnson champions internationalism

But shows little sign of having any clout with the Home Office, writes Alison Goddard.

International export earnings from education should total £30 billion by 2020, a rise of two-thirds over eight years, Jo Johnson has said in his first speech as universities minister. Mr Johnson promised to increase internationalisation by boosting the mobility of British students and by improving communications, in a speech to delegates at the British Council’s Going Global conference. The Guardian reports that Mr Johnson described Britain’s poor image abroad, particularly in India, as being due to "misconceptions and, in some countries, misunderstandings". The Financial Times says that Mr Johnson, a former New Delhi correspondent for the paper, vowed to address the decline in the number of Indian students coming to the UK. The Times reports his plan to crack down on online listings of rogue courses. We have a report on exactly what Mr Johnson told delegates; our sister publication, Research Fortnight, notes that Mr Johnson failed to say that the science budget would be protected from funding cuts.

Alas Mr Johnson so far appears to lack the necessary heft to challenge the Home Office over its immigration policy. His delivery was flat: he merely read his speech aloud—and he repeated the old saw that there is no cap on the number of international students coming to the UK while failing to acknowledge that students are nevertheless caught in the net migration target. And his plan to boost export earnings cannot be achieved by his suggested mechanism of sending British students abroad. Mr Johnson is clearly an intelligent and influential minister but he appears also to be a party man who has yet to acknowledge the contradictions inherent in higher education policy and to show the confidence needed to shine in the role.

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