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Universities: Overseas Students

Question for Department for Education

UIN 86652, tabled on 8 September 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what discussions he has had with the British Council on the number of international students expected to enrol in UK universities during academic years (a) 2020-21, (b) 2021-22, (c) 2022-23; and what support his Department has offered to the British Council to help attract international students for the academic year 2020-21.

Answered on

14 September 2020

The government has been clear that our world-leading universities, which thrive on being global institutions, will always be open to international students. I have met with the British Council to discuss how we can best attract international students, including through effective communications.

Engaging closely with other government departments and the higher education (HE) sector, including the British Council, the department is working to reassure current and prospective international students that UK HE is ‘open for business’, remains world-class and is a safe and tolerant place to study. This includes continued work with Study UK (the government’s international student recruitment campaign led by the British Council), support for the sector-led #WeAreTogether campaign and a package of bespoke communications directly targeting international students, making clear our world-leading UK offer.

As part of this communications activity, the government has also recently approved £1 million for the British Council-led Study UK campaign, to help drive the international student intake in 2020 from 16 global markets and to further promote the new graduate route, which is a significant improvement in our offer to international students that will help ensure the UK HE sector remains competitive internationally.

I have also written open letters to international students (hosted on the British Council led Study UK website) and placed contributions in overseas newspapers. Additionally, we have enlisted the support of our embassies, British Council offices and staff abroad to make clear that international students are welcome in the UK.

In addition, the government has been working with the HE sector to ensure existing rules and processes are as flexible as possible under the current circumstances to ensure that international students planning to study in the UK from autumn 2020 can do so. Speaking at the British Council’s Going Global event on 5 June, I outlined measures we are taking to support international students and the HE sector against the global challenges posed by COVID-19. This includes reassuring international students who are considering study in the UK that distance/blended learning will be permitted for the 20/21 academic year, provided that students intend to transition to face-to-face learning as soon as circumstances allow.

Finally, we recognise that embarking on a course of study at a UK HE institution is a significant commitment and we are encouraged to see HE providers doing their upmost to support students during this time.

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