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Higher Education (Internationalisation)

Volume 472: debated on Thursday 21 February 2008

1. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for International Development on the globalisation of higher education. (187368)

I regularly speak to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Our higher education sector plays an important role in international development. Our universities attract students from more than 200 countries, helping them to acquire skills and knowledge that are of benefit to their home countries. Universities collaborate extensively with their counterparts overseas to deliver courses, to exchange staff and students, and to conduct world-class research. My Department's bilateral programmes with India, China and African countries complement DFID’s work.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that positive response. In Crawley we are working hard to acquire a university campus. Does my right hon. Friend agree that while universities benefit students at home, enabling students overseas to learn together and share experiences is a very good way of promoting education in the United Kingdom?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I am well aware of her ambition to establish a university campus in Crawley. It is true that the internationalisation of higher education brings numerous benefits to our own students and also to students who come here to study, and who take their knowledge of education back to their countries along with, hopefully, a good impression of our country and our education system.

Will the Minister take this opportunity to praise the work of the dedicated staff of the British Council who operate in a number of developing countries throughout the world, not only advertising our universities but helping to establish campuses in those countries? Will he also take the opportunity to praise the work of British Chevening Scholarships, a body that provides scholarships for people who might not otherwise be able to afford education in this country?

I am delighted to do so. I have met Chevening scholars in Bournemouth in the recent past. In my present post I have worked with the British Council in China, and have observed its role in helping British universities to offer British higher education in that country. In an earlier role I met British Council staff in Pakistan, where they were doing much to promote awareness of further and higher education in this country and to deliver English language courses in that country.