Motion to Take Note
My Lords, it is a pleasure to move this Motion. I declare my interests as professor of government at the University of Hull and chair of the Higher Education Commission, a body that draws together academics, parliamentarians and figures in business and education. The commission has just concluded a study of this very topic and will be publishing its report in September.
The export of higher education refers to transactions between UK residents and non-residents. In economic terms, it covers the income from overseas students studying in the UK as well as the income from students studying at overseas campuses and centres established by UK institutions of higher education. The economic benefit to the nation is enormous. However, the benefit extends beyond the economic to the educational and the political, and I shall address each in turn. As an export, higher education is a success story, but there are challenges. On the surface we may look in a strong position, but that position is under threat. I wish to identify the problems and what steps may be taken to protect our world status.
Higher education contributes massively to the British economy. It is not just the fees paid by students who come to the UK to study but also the money spent while here. There are different models for estimating the contribution to the UK economy. The recent analysis by the Higher Education Policy Institute and Kaplan International Pathways estimates that the net impact of a cohort of first-year international students over the period of their study is in excess of £20 billion. Given various omissions such as tax and national insurance contributions, the report concedes that this figure is likely an underestimate. In terms of transnational education, TNE—that is, the delivery of programmes in a country outside the UK—there has been a notable increase in the student intake. According to DfE figures, the revenue brought into the UK in 2015 from TNE was £1.7 billion, a substantial sum although a fraction of the income achieved from overseas students in the UK. Our universities need overseas students and so do the towns and cities in which universities are based. Income contributes to local employment. Spending by overseas students may make the difference between success and failure of commercial areas adjacent to university campuses.
Whichever model one takes, it is apparent that higher education is a major exporter, benefiting the UK economy significantly. This is recognised by the Government, who are keen to see the value of international higher education reach £30 billion by 2020. However, as we shall see, they are pursuing policies that militate against achieving that goal rather than facilitating it.
The value of overseas students studying in the UK is not just economic. Overseas students bring a range of experience and perspectives that can add value to courses. That is a good in itself, but their presence is essential to making some courses viable. That is especially the case at postgraduate level. According to HESA data, in 2016-17 more than 40% of postgraduate research students were from overseas. The majority of all postgraduate research students in physical science STEM subjects are non-UK citizens. There is a marked dependence in some of our leading research universities on overseas postgraduate students.
The benefit is also political. Studying in the UK builds up a body of good will towards the United Kingdom. The export of higher education is arguably the biggest contributor to UK soft power around the globe. The Committee on Soft Power and the UK’s Influence, in its report Persuasion and Power in the Modern World, observed that students,
“gain exposure to ‘UK norms and cultural values’”,
and are overwhelmingly,
“‘positively orientated’ towards the UK”.
Graduates of UK universities are to be found around the globe, occupying leading positions in business and government. They constitute a valuable and, indeed, unmatched resource for the United Kingdom. However, there are problems. One should not be misled by the increase in enrolment in recent years. We are already losing out to our competitors—they are outstripping us in the recruitment market—and the situation is likely to get worse in future years. It depends how you crunch the numbers, but it is possible that Australia has already overtaken the United Kingdom as the number two destination, after the United States, for overseas students. There are clear indicators that we are beginning to lose out to the USA, Australia and Canada, which are aggressively recruiting overseas students.
Between 2011-12 and 2015-16, enrolments in the UK increased, but only by 0.8%. In the same period, global mobility grew by 16.6%. An increase in enrolment by Chinese students has masked a fall in students coming from other nations, not least India. Since 2006-07, there has been a 45% fall in enrolment by Indian students. Dependence on Chinese students is not sustainable, given that the 18 to 22 year-old population in China is set to decline over the next decade. Chinese universities are also developing and may attract students to study at home. In short, unless action is taken, we are going to see our competitors further outstrip us and we are going to jeopardise the benefits that derive from the export of higher education. That is a threat to the economy, our HE system, and our global influence.
What, then, are the reasons for failing to keep up with our competitors? The excellent Library briefing for the debate highlights three principal issues. The first is including overseas students in the migration figures. We are told that there is no cap on the number of students who can be recruited, but they are included in the migration figures, which the Government are committed to reducing. Two justifications have been offered by the Home Office for keeping overseas students in the migration figures. One is that it is complying with the UN definition of migration. That is not a compelling argument; it is not the universal practice to adopt that definition and there is no obvious political case for doing so. Survey data show that the public recognise the difference between migrants and overseas students and are not opposed to separating them.
The second reason relates to overseas students as consumers. A few years ago, I was chairing a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary University Group addressed by the then Immigration Minister, who argued that students should remain in the migration figures because, like others who moved to the UK, they consumed health and other public services. However, as a member of the audience immediately pointed out, the difference is that students pay to be here. Another difference is that they go home after they have graduated. Again, a few years ago I met some ambassadors from Gulf states who were keen to make the point that 100% of their young people who came to study in the UK returned home after graduating.
The second problem listed in the briefing is, arguably just as, if not more, important than including students in the migration figures, and that is in the form of post-study work visas. The 2012 changes have impacted upon recruitment, putting the UK at a notable disadvantage in the international market. The modifications since have caused as many problems as they have solved. Our competitors offer much more attractive opportunities to undertake post-study work. As the report cited in the Library briefing concludes, the changes in the visa arrangements have impacted undergraduate recruitment negatively and significantly.
Then there is the third problem: withdrawal from the European Union. This has created uncertainty as to the position of non-UK EU students who are already in the UK and those who may be contemplating applying. The Government are alert to the problem, but it is not clear how they propose to ensure that we remain attractive to EU students. The Migration Advisory Committee has been commissioned to provide an assessment of EU and international students. The Government White Paper released last week refers to reciprocal arrangements to,
“facilitate mobility for students and young people”,
but it is not clear what the position will be for students from EU member states wishing to start courses at UK universities from 2020 onwards. The Government recognise the challenges, but it is not yet apparent how they intend to meet them. The longer the uncertainty, the greater the difficulties for UK universities in attracting students from 27 nations to study in the UK.
What, then, are some of the steps that can be taken to protect and enhance the export of higher education? There is a case for working cross-departmentally to develop and implement a strategy for enhancing the export of higher education. There need to be improved post-study work options and streamlined visa processes to put us at least on a par with our competitors. We should roll out an improved tier 4 pilot, based on recruiting from target countries. The current pilot has caused significant problems, suggesting that some universities are to be trusted and others not. We should reduce the burdens placed on tier 4 sponsors. There is also a strong case for the UK to set a target for international student intake, as other countries have done, and measure progress against the target.
Essentially, a fundamental culture shift on the part of the Home Office is required. There needs to be a major enhancement of the Britain is GREAT campaign by the Department for International Trade, the British Council and the Department for Education to ensure that the message goes out that the UK not only welcomes international students, but that it values them and is prepared to match its competitors in generating an attractive environment in which to study. I have also previously suggested that more of DfID’s budget should be given over to providing educational vouchers that would enable qualified students from developing countries to study at UK universities. After graduation, the students would go home to help the development of their country. This constitutes an investment in the home country, clearly of benefit to that country, as well as of benefit to UK higher education and the UK’s global reputation. Chevening Scholarships provide a valuable example of what we can do. It would also be a plus for DfID in that there would be a clear audit trail.
It will be helpful to have confirmation from my noble friend Lord Younger that the Government are alert to the problems—the serious problems—and to hear from him what concrete plans the Government have to create a strong, attractive environment for those who wish to benefit from higher education in the United Kingdom. How exactly will the Government ensure that we match the United States, Australia and Canada in recruiting overseas students, to the benefit of the British economy, UK higher education, and the United Kingdom’s global influence? I beg to move.
My Lords, I am pleased to have this opportunity to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Norton, whose experience and reputation in this field are outstanding. I declare an interest in that I was once the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education. It is an interest only in the sense that I was in a position to deal with the complaints that we received from international students.
Year by year, complaints from international students were higher in number than their proportion of UK students as a whole, so we started to look into why that was, and how our universities might be falling short in serving them. For that reason, I propose to concentrate today on the experience that we offer international students. Much has and will be said about visa problems—I note that they are acute—but, even if they are resolved, we will not continue to be number one in attracting foreign students, which we are, unless we offer them a teaching and social experience that lives up to our reputation, and makes their stay here worthwhile.
Visas and formalities must be made student-friendly. From the numbers point of view, the experience may be more of an issue than the visas. One-third of our over 440,000 international students are Chinese. Some 42% of our postgraduates are from non-EU countries; our non-EU students outnumber those from the EU by nearly 3:1. Applications from EU students rose by 3.6% in 2018. We have a plentiful pool of students from around the world. The Chinese supply is almost inexhaustible—for now—regardless of Brexit. The clue to our attraction lies in the nature of our universities. British universities are superb in their attention to every single student with all their problems—unlike the failings reported to me by students who went to Europe and found relatively poor support and accommodation.
The USA is the first choice for British students wanting to go abroad, so it is not wholly visas and money that determine the traffic, but language, high reputation and experience—albeit that scholarships are attractive, as they need to be here, too. The traffic is many times higher in students coming here. Where would an able EU student go, if not here? There is not a single non-British EU university in the Times Higher Education ranking of universities until you get to about number 34. Even if the fees go up, the choice for a bright EU student will remain the UK or the USA, where the visa problems and expense are most likely even greater. I am not saying we should be complacent—far from it. There is evidence that we are not treating our foreign students as we should, and our reputation could vanish if we do not improve it.
Our universities need to understand that foreign students, however bright, may have been raised in an entirely different teaching culture. We assume that Asian students, for example, must know the norms of English academic writing. Little training is given and they are expected to follow our habits of citation and referencing, to be critical of professors, and to be competitive rather than collaborative, as they may have been in, for example, China. Universities here need to be sensitive to the influence on foreign students of culture, language, identity, knowledge and their peers, and not to be too ready to accuse them of plagiarism. The solution is more mentoring and induction when they arrive, having checked that their command of the English language is good enough, which is sometimes not the case. Universities have to help foreign students settle in, whether that is by means of alcohol-free freshers’ weeks—which frankly would be advantageous for all students—buddy schemes, arriving in the same week as home students, which is a good idea, mingling with them in accommodation, and in general doing everything to avoid segregation into national groups, which happens when there are significant numbers arriving from one country and they are not integrated as soon as they arrive. London colleges are particularly problematic, with their scattered campuses, high travel costs and concentration of foreign students in large groups.
Universities need to make honest promises to overseas students and have direct communication with them. Sometimes they are recruited to come here by intermediary agents whose aim is to attract as many as possible, and who may promise undeliverable studies. The Office of the Independent Adjudicator used to get complaints that foreign students would come here to study with a particular professor, only to find, when they arrived, that he or she had gone on sabbatical, or even died. Sometimes they complained that equipment promised and needed for scientific research was broken or not available, or that universities were not helpful with visa and financial issues. Promoting inclusive societies and clubs is very effective in settling international students and making them feel welcome. We must avoid making them think that, once they have paid their fees, they are not of much interest.
What do we do for students who cannot afford to go back to their home countries in the vacation and who know nobody here? I draw attention to the valuable work of an organisation called HOST UK. It is a charity with a UK-wide network of some 1,500 volunteer families who welcome overseas students into their homes for short visits at weekends and over festive seasons. It is the only nationwide organisation providing this much-needed service of integrating overseas students into the community. The benefits of those HOST visits for the UK, in terms of promoting international friendship and building new relationships for the future, are incalculable. The welcoming of international students will become even more important following our withdrawal from the EU as part of the process of building new international relationships. Will the Government undertake to maintain and increase support for HOST UK through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office?
Sadly, I met a student from Paris recently, who told me that he and several classmates had decided to study in London to escape the anti-Semitism rampant in French universities. For example, earlier this year the Jewish student building at the Panthéon-Sorbonne campus was vandalised. He said that he was upset to find that the atmosphere was as bad, if not worse, at his London college. I have spoken about this before, and your Lordships will know that fears of anti-Semitism, especially associated with universities and the Labour Party, are worldwide news, and will deter some from coming here, albeit a small number. It needs to be tackled.
The UK is one of the world's leading study destinations because of the first-class experience that our universities can and must continue to offer. The International Student Barometer finds the UK number one for overall satisfaction, reputation and quality, employability, making good contacts, quality lectures, laboratories, and a supportive environment. Indeed, one might call it “the highest level of special”—had that phrase not already been commandeered by someone else.
Foreign students are valuable to us not merely as an export, and we must hope they never see themselves in that light alone. They are valuable because they bring their diverse talents to enrich the home student body and because of the research they do. Oxford University spin-outs have an estimated turnover of £600 million annually; 45% of the founders or co-founders are from outside the UK, as are 77% of the founders of start-ups. We need to reach out to our foreign students, graduates and researchers with financial assistance. I need only mention the astonishing success of the Rhodes scholars, who now come from a wider range of countries; the scholarships offered by Oxford, for example, to Indian and Russian students; the Gates scholarships at Cambridge; the Weidenfeld-Hoffmann scholarships offered at Oxford; the joint collaboration between Oxford and Chinese students in biotechnology and health; and the work on tropical diseases with researchers from the Far East. We want them because they take home a good impression of the UK which we hope will last a lifetime.
Will the Government maintain and increase scholarships for international students—such as, the Chevening and Commonwealth Scholarships—as the benefits clearly outweigh the costs? Will the Government also pursue full associate country status with Horizon Europe to keep the research flow going? The foreign students are our friends and collaborators; they have enriched us in the past and we owe them a great deal. We know what it feels like, because I am sure that many of your Lordships, like me, have been foreign students abroad. We appreciated those instances when we were made welcome and made lifelong friends, and came to love the countries where we studied.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to take part in this debate, and in doing so I declare my interests as set out in the register. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Norton on securing this debate. It is always an important time to talk about these issues. I also congratulate him on having developed one of the greatest government courses at university anywhere on the planet.
I also very much look forward to the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester. It is always good to know that more wisdom will be drifting up from the Bishops’ Benches to this Back-Bencher.
We have 10 minutes per speaker; in many ways, I could do this in 10 seconds. I say to my noble friend the Minister to take international students out of the net migration figures and, alongside that, end the visa vapidity.
I am fortunate to be chancellor of BPP University. We have hundreds of international students who come and enrich our student community every year. When they graduate, some stay; many go back to their home nations. Whether they stay or go, they make a positive contribution and 96% of them are in employment within six months of graduating from our institution. There are 58 current world leaders—Presidents or Prime Ministers—who studied at British universities. I say to my noble friend the Minister: are they not 58 good reasons why we should seriously consider our approach?
I have drawn previously in debates on the excellent words of Prime Minister Modi of India who summed up this problem quite clearly: “You want our trade, you do not want our children”. The message that we want to send from Parliament, and the one that we should want to send as a Government, is that we want your trade but we also want your children. We want the brightest and the best from all around the Commonwealth, the European Community and the world to come and study and be part of our higher education communities and part of our country.
As my noble friend Lord Norton said, there is an educational case and there is absolutely an economic case. If one were to approach a Government Minister and offer her or him a £20 billion-plus boon for the British economy, that would be a pretty exciting proposition. We have that in international students. Furthermore, over 200,000 jobs are supported through this brilliant business.
Quite rightly, in the current situation we are looking at sector deals in aviation and automotive. Let us consider higher education, yes, for its educational good but also for its economic impact. We need to look no further than this House and this debate to see the benefits. The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, came as an international student. Can my noble friend the Minister consider curry without Cobra? If anything demonstrates the educational, economic, social and cultural benefits of international students, it is what the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, has brought to this nation.
From the statistics we learn, which will not come as a surprise to most of us, that we do not have a problem of mass overstaying by international students, draining our public services and pulling our country down. Initially, you could not rely on the statistics because they were not comparing like for like. We all suspected there was not a problem. We now know categorically that there is not. What problem are the Government seeking to solve by continuing to include international students in the net migration statistics? As my noble friend Lord Norton put it, it does not cut it to say that there is no cap on international students if they are included in a statistic which the Government are making all efforts to bring down.
It is a difficult point to make, but I think that we need to face it: there is good immigration and there is less good immigration. However, what you need with any immigration policy is clarity, transparency and consistency, and none of the study data, research or surveys gives any reason for having international students in those net migration statistics. When it comes to visas, we do not need counsels of prevention; we need counsels of prudence.
As a nation and as a Government, we decide and choose—we can plot that path. We should say to all nations, individuals and young people, “Ignore the rhetoric. Ignore what you are hearing. Believe this, because this has to be the truth. As a nation, as higher education institutions, we want you and we need you. Come and be part of our academic communities. Come and be part of our cities. Come and be part of making a better and brighter Britain”.
My Lords, I congratulate my colleague and friend, the noble Lord, Lord Norton, on securing this debate and introducing it with characteristic eloquence and learning. I shall be succeeded in speaking by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester. I look forward to his maiden speech and welcome his presence in your Lordships’ House.
Whenever we talk about education, I am always a little worried and my worry has not been assuaged today. When we talk about education as an export and about competitors and markets, it all sounds like a civilised form of the slave trade. We are out there recruiting more and more students, and the question is: how can we make more money out of them? That is one way of looking at the issue. Happily, it is not the only way, but, sadly, it is one way in which to downgrade our higher education, thinking of higher education almost entirely in terms of how many students can be educated and how much money it can bring in.
I want to begin by alerting your Lordships to this danger and point out that the case for the presence of overseas students is not entirely or even exclusively economic; it is a fourfold case. It is based on economic grounds, obviously, but also on educational grounds, on soft power and on cultural grounds. Those are the grounds that the noble Lord, Lord Norton, briefly talked about, and I want to expatiate a little on them.
The economics are fairly simple. In 2016-17, we had 442,000 non-UK-domiciled students, of which 307,540 came from a non-EU background. If you take just first-year students and not the total number, the figures are even more striking: 235,315 were from overseas, and they made up 23% of all our first-year students. These students come from a variety of countries, but it is striking that China beats them all, with 66,415 students coming from there. The next largest cohort is from the US, with 10,885—noble Lords will see the difference between those figures. India comes third, with only 9,720 students, which is a fall from 12,280 four years earlier. It is also striking that 25% of all postgraduates are from overseas. If you look at certain areas such as business studies, the number goes up, and can be as high as 55%. In computer science, the number is as high as 42%. If one looks at the total on and off-campus contribution of these students, it comes to something like £25.8 billion, which is a massive contribution to our economy. It also creates just over 170,000 jobs. That is the economic case, which is obvious.
I turn now to the educational case. Of our academic staff, 28% were born overseas. In STEM subjects, 31% of our academic staff are from overseas. There are lots of research projects that simply would not continue unless overseas students were involved, and there are several courses that simply would not be taught if overseas people were not involved. That is the educational case, and I could go on.
The third case is soft power. As I have already told your Lordships, I do not like the term “soft power”: if it is too soft, it is not power; if it is power, it cannot be that soft. Nevertheless, using the accepted language, soft power means influencing people such that they think well of us—not in a flattering way, but in the sense of good will. Obviously, higher education achieves this. Students sit at the feet of masters. They learn a great deal and they go away thinking well of us. They establish international contacts and they go away and occupy important, high-up positions in their own country. As a result of that, they are able to oblige us in other areas when we need their help, and, in formulating the policies of their Government—economic, financial, political or other—they are able to think of our interests.
The fourth case for overseas students, and the one I am very keen on, is the cultural case. Each overseas student interacts with at least 20 to 25 local students and, in so doing, sensitises them to a different outlook, broadens their sympathies and helps to create a multicultural society to match the multicultural world in which we live. It also opens the minds of local students to the variety of human experiences and to how human beings can live and think very differently. It leads to new literary, artistic and culinary output: think of curry and Cobra—I must say that curry and Cobra is a good combination, but other traditions may be just as good. Foreign influences come in freely, interact with local factors and generate new fusions and new ways of looking at things. I know from my own experience as a professor of many years that lots of students from abroad come here largely because they think Britain is a multicultural country, where they will be able to interact with students from Africa, Asia and elsewhere. They would not find that sort of thing in many other European countries.
Given all the benefits of overseas students, why do we have reason to worry? Why are we debating the subject today? Here, I think the noble Lord, Lord Norton, put his finger on it. First, compared to other competitors, we are doing very badly. In India, for example, we have failed. I say this as one who was privileged to be vice-chancellor of a very large university in India for three years, and I regret that the great educational benefits we could confer on students from India are not available to them simply because they cannot meet our conditions.
Secondly, as the noble Lord, Lord Norton, said, applications from Chinese students will decline in time. This is partly because China is smart at organising its universities—much better than India and many other countries. I know from my experience that it has built great universities, where a large number of Indian students go. In fact, some Indian doctors did not make it to Indian medical schools or British medical schools, but went to Chinese medical schools, learned in English and then went back to India. In dentistry, accountancy and other areas, Indian students are moving to China in large numbers.
Thirdly, the variety of students is shrinking. We used to get students from a variety of countries, but increasingly we find that, under the impact of our rules, the number of countries from which our overseas students come is in decline. There is also the influence of Empire. Three generations have gone since decolonisation took place and the Empire ended. The halo surrounding British universities has begun to decline and more and more students from India, Nigeria and elsewhere now think of American rather than British universities.
Given the kind of challenges that we face, what should we be doing? We can do a great deal and I want to run through half a dozen ideas. First, the whole business of including students in the immigration figures is ridiculous. Students do not come as immigrants. I came here 59 years ago as a student. I could have gone back but decided to stay on. I did not come as an immigrant and did not see myself as an immigrant.
Secondly, since 2012 the post-study work visa has been abolished. As a result, tier 4 students cannot work for two years after completing their studies and they feel that that is a hardship. A large number of Indian students are deterred precisely by this.
Thirdly, we need to increase the number of grants and scholarships to overseas students so that more of them are able to come. This is not a gift. If noble Lords look at the number of Indian doctors who come here, each one saves us around half a million pounds, because it costs that much to educate a doctor. We are getting these doctors free, fully trained, at the expense of the Indian taxpayer. If we can benefit from that in this way, surely we can increase the number of scholarships and grants to overseas students.
Fourthly, there must be a national strategy of the kind that France has, where they decided to double the number of students from India and China in the next two or three years. There has to be a national strategy.
We should also create a hospitable, not a hostile, environment for immigration—noble Lords know what I mean. A hostile environment discourages people. If they come here and do not benefit from either the state or our universities, then something has to be done. Our own universities have to be more proactive and put on imaginative courses that attract students from overseas. The experience of overseas students in our country must also improve, so that they can benefit from being here and do not suffer ill-treatment of any kind. I remember that an Indian student in Australia was badly treated and the result was that hundreds did not go. So it is important that students coming from overseas should be well treated.
Finally, there is the Indian diaspora of nearly 2 million people. What use are we making of this diaspora in attracting overseas students? There are ways in which that can be done and it has been done in Canada, such as by welcoming overseas students when they come, celebrating their festivals and enjoying their holidays, and in that way making them feel part of and integrating them into the local community.
My Lords, I begin by recording my thanks for the welcome and encouragement that I have received both today and on so many occasions since being introduced into your Lordships’ House.
I came to the See of Chichester in 2012 after ministry in inner-city parishes in Plymouth and Leicester, as the priest administrator of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk, a canon at St Paul’s Cathedral, and all-too-short a time in the diocese of York as Bishop of Whitby, which was always about more than Dracula and goths. In each context, the Church’s contribution to learning and the arts has been a significant element of my ministerial experience, perhaps exemplified most strikingly by the centuries-old work of St Paul’s Cathedral School, which today offers choristers a free education in music of an international standard. Many choristers have become professional musicians in adult life, sustaining and enriching Britain’s cultural life.
I often feel overwhelmed by the scale of this inheritance and by the best accomplishments of my predecessors. Bishop George Bell made Chichester famous for its contribution to learning and the arts, and he was building on solid foundations. In a tenure of just four years, his predecessor, the remarkable Bishop William Otter, established a teacher training college that has joined with another local institution to become the University of Chichester. Otter was inspired by the tradition of learning nurtured by Christian Europe, and from which, even post Brexit, the Church of England will continue to draw. His academic credentials lay in the founding of King’s College London in 1829 as an explicit expression of Christian commitment to higher education.
It is no accident that today the arts form a central part of the university’s life in Chichester, drawing on rich resources in the cathedral’s outstanding musical tradition, the art in Pallant House Gallery and the Chichester Festival Theatre, presently enjoying summer performances of “Me and My Girl”. The theatre runs a vibrant youth theatre for more than 800 people of school age. Its workshops for young people and adults with special needs represent a remarkable achievement of social inclusion.
This inheritance in Chichester demonstrates that in a creative, balanced and economically sound society, the arts, science, engineering and technology need each other. As we consider the value to the UK economy of higher education as an export, the Church of England, a foundational stakeholder in higher education, is also concerned with the quality and scope of the offer we make to overseas students. The Church of England holds fast to the question of what education is for, believing it right to ask how learning gives moral value to economic activity. It is right to pay constant attention to the flourishing of human life and society. Further, particularly with foreign students in mind, the work of our chaplaincies not only addresses their pastoral, emotional and financial needs, but also ensures the dignity of their access to religious worship, which is particularly important to their identity. The Church of England is of course also concerned with the right to nurture the wisdom that will govern well our stewardship of the earth.
The benefits of access to learning and the arts can and must be open to all, especially in areas of deprivation in this country, where they provide unique opportunities to combat some of the symptoms of social dislocation and its consequences, and to build greater levels of racial understanding. I was delighted to learn that it was back in the 1950s that the Glyndebourne Festival took a production of “Fidelio” into HMP Lewes as part of a rehabilitation programme for prisoners, seeking to build the social integration for which we still long.
However, the challenges to sustaining this access and integration through higher education are substantial. Last year saw a 39% drop in the number of A-level music students and a 31% drop at GCSE. The impact of this is catastrophic in higher education as an export and its maintenance of our place as a world-class centre for music and the arts. Moreover, fears that there is growing social segregation in access to the arts are strengthened by the realisation that only one in 10 pupils from a disadvantaged background in Hastings or Eastbourne in my diocese will go to university. In this context, the University of Chichester seeks to make a distinctively positive contribution to the arts and to economic regeneration locally where it is most needed, and as an international export offering an experience that is always more than money can buy. One example of the university’s commitment is the new engineering and digital technology park in its Bognor Regis campus, which aims to serve the Hampshire and West Sussex coastal region—an area seriously disadvantaged by low levels of skills, business growth and earnings. Only one in five people in Bognor Regis and Littlehampton has higher-level qualifications.
Finally, I believe we should demonstrate a duty of care for students, locally from home and international students, that stretches beyond the academy. At present, 40% of Chichester’s graduates leave the region within a week of completing their courses because affordable accommodation is unavailable. This is a crippling outcome for the future economic and cultural life of provincial towns and cities such as Chichester. Similarly, we have a duty to sustain the relationships we are building with overseas students who are our exports to ensure that the bonds of learning and culture forge a greater sense of international trade and security that will build a peaceful and better future.
I have no sense of being equal to the noble achievements of my worthy predecessors but, encouraged by your Lordships’ welcome, I look forward to playing an active role in the work of your Lordships’ House in the years to come.
My Lords, when the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, the then Bishop of Durham, made his maiden speech in the House, he spoke in a business debate. I said to someone, “What is he doing speaking in a business debate?” They replied, “Don’t you know that he was a very successful trader in the oil business for many years?” He spoke with great authority.
Today, we welcome to these Benches the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester, who spoke so eloquently and superbly about higher education. He spoke about some of his career: he is Dr Martin Warner; he studied at St Chad’s College, Durham, then St Stephen’s House, Oxford; he has worked in the Midlands, Norfolk, St Paul’s Cathedral, where he was treasurer, and York; he is a regular contributor to the Church Times; he is a cyclist; he enjoys the arts; and, most importantly, he is well known for his hospitality and welcome. He has written five books, one of which is Between Heaven and Charing Cross. I think that he was being prescient and talking about the House of Lords.
In a recent interview, he was asked,
“Aren’t you more of a chief executive than a bishop?”
“I’d certainly resist the chief executive title—but there are certain systemic and structural issues here which I must address. The word shepherd means someone who takes care of their flock, just like a parent is in charge of a household”.
He was then asked about government cuts. He said:
“For priests, their priority is their work, particularly in areas of deprivation and need. They see first hand what the impact is of government policy … Often they are there to pick up the pieces”.
He illustrated that clearly in his speech today. In that interview, he also said:
“A priest lives in often tough places where no other professional person would live”.
I hope that he will not find this House such a tough place and will, from the Spiritual Benches, temper us on the temporal Benches with his wisdom in the years to come.
I am the president of UKCISA—the UK Council for International Student Affairs—which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. At our conference, I stated that,
“the benefits which international students bring to the UK are both ‘enormous’ and ‘priceless’ … this is a view which is widely shared not only by an increasing number of leading politicians but also by the British public in general. International students enrich our campuses and communities”,
and the experience of our domestic students,
“bring talent and new perspectives to our lives, build links for us all around the globe and help us to contribute to a more prosperous and indeed more peaceful world”.
As the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, said, Universities UK estimates that international students bring £26 billion to the UK economy.
As chancellor of the University of Birmingham and chair of the advisory board of the University of Cambridge Judge Business School, I am active in this sector. I am the third generation of my family to be educated in the UK. Generation-long links are built when foreign students come here. My son is at a British university and my daughter is about to enter a British university. Its universities are the jewel in Britain’s crown. We are renowned for them. In Birmingham degree ceremonies, I often say to the graduands, “When you graduate, walk out of the door and turn left. In front of the vice-chancellor’s office are the pictures of the 11 Nobel Prize winners from Birmingham”. That is more than most countries. Trinity College, Cambridge, has more Nobel Prize winners than France. Cambridge has the highest number of Nobel Prize winners in the world.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Norton, for this debate. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, for his kind words about Cobra beer. As mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Norton, in his opening speech, the soft power of our universities is amazing. The noble Lord, Lord Holmes, spoke about the 58 world leaders. It is not the United States of America that produces more world leaders from international students than any other country; it is the United Kingdom. The noble Lord, Lord Holmes, spoke about Prime Minister Modi saying, “You want our trade and you don’t want our children”. I was in India when that happened. It was very embarrassing.
Despite our excellence, we do this punching above our weight. We do not invest as much as a percentage of GDP as the United States of America. When it comes to research and development and innovation, we invest 1.7% of GDP compared with Germany and America, which invest 2.8%. Just to match that we would have to spend £20 billion more a year, yet, with less than 1% of the world’s population, this country produces 16% of the highest-rated research papers around the world. We do this not sitting in isolation, but in collaboration. This is where Brexit is a huge threat and uncertainty. Our ability to attract international students is linked to our excellence, which is achieved partly through our collaborations in Horizon 2020 and the Erasmus scheme, from which more than 200,000 of our students have benefited. But this excellence is threatened by Brexit. Students will never get a chance to travel in that manner. More than 725,000 benefit annually through Erasmus.
I am currently Bynum Tudor fellow at Kellogg College at the University of Oxford. Some 45% of students and 48% of academics at Oxford are from countries outside the UK. Some 50.7% of Oxford’s research publications involve international collaboration. The same exists for Birmingham and for Cambridge. Where Brexit is concerned, the bigger threat is not just losing out on the funding—can the Minister confirm that we will keep getting that funding?—but the loss of collaboration, which we are more worried about than anything else.
Yes, the UK is a large destination for international students, but, as has been pointed out, we have probably slipped from second to third in the world—the United States is always number one. We have 450,000 students, 130,000 of whom are from the EU. UKCISA looks after the interests of all of them. The Brexit uncertainty is a huge problem. The Government have given an assurance for those 130,000 EU students for the next academic year—of course they have to; they have no choice but to do that—but what will happen after that? Will the Minister tell us?
I am also co-chair of the All-Party Group for International Students. Our secretariat is supported by higher education. There is no question about it: the UK puts out a hostile impression regarding international students. The post-graduation work visa was removed. I remember being in this House when we brought in the post-graduation work visa for two years. It came in in 2008 and was removed in 2012. In the meantime, the demand for international students is increasing by 8% a year.
The policies are perceived to be hostile. When the Prime Minister was the Home Secretary she made the statement that international students should leave the day that they graduate. The headlines in India were: “Take our money and then get out”. India feels discriminated against. The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, spoke about India. The fast-track scheme has existed for a long time for student visas for countries such as America and Canada, and 11 new countries were added, including China. India was excluded. Will the Minister tell us why and whether it could be included?
The public are for international students. They do not see international students as immigrants and do not mind them working for a while after they graduate. Why will the Government not introduce physical, visible exit checks at our borders? The Government have lost control of illegal immigration, which we all think should be controlled. If we had those checks, we would have more control. Will the Minister acknowledge that international students do not overstay? Less than 5% of them are now proven to overstay.
The All-Party Group for International Students is conducting an inquiry into international students, with various themes, including the classroom, research, community and policy aspects. It will report in the autumn. We are talking about universities, but that inquiry also covers schools, foreign language institutions, further education institutions, pathway institutions, independent higher education institutions and universities. The spread of our offering to international students is phenomenal. We are one of the best in the world, but Exporting Education UK produced a report in 2016 that suggested that, across all education, the UK has lost £9 billion simply by not keeping up its market share.
Is the Minister aware of the latest UUK report released this morning, Five Little-known Facts about International Student Mobility to the UK, which analyses the shifts in international student enrolments? It contains a table that sums it all up, which describes post-study work opportunities and growth in enrolments. If we look at post-study we see that countries such as Australia allow two to four years, Canada allows three years and Ireland allows 24 months. They all have targets for international student recruitment: we should have targets to increase the numbers of international students. We do not have specific targets. Australia has a target of 720,000 by 2025. Canada has a target of 450,000 by 2022. Look at their growth rates over the past three years: Australia, 18%; Canada, 27%; 43% in the case of Ireland. We are losing out. The global appeal of UK higher education is a national asset, and preserving and building on it should be a national priority.
To conclude, we need to remove international students from the net migration figures. This creates a terrible perception: our competitor countries all exclude them. Does the Minister agree that this should happen? We should have a target to increase the number of international students. We should bring back the two-year post-graduation work visa. We should bring the Indians in to the fast-track stream from which they were excluded. Now is a great opportunity: with American policies being hostile, we should jump at that opportunity now. Yesterday I was speaking at the Embassy Education Conference at King’s College London on the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. Mandela said:
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.
We have that most powerful weapon in abundance.
My Lords, I join others in thanking my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth. His introduction of this debate comes at just the right time, shortly after the Prime Minister’s recent specific guidelines for EU withdrawal. For these, in turn, can focus us all the more sharply upon the best means and approach for sustaining and augmenting the value to the United Kingdom of higher education as an export.
I warmly congratulate the right reverend Prelate on his excellent maiden speech. Looking it up this morning, I discovered that he is the 77th Bishop of Chichester. His earliest predecessor, Saint Wilfrid, was already in office in the year 681, thus nearly 700 years before we began to develop our own two Houses of Parliament here in the 14th century.
In my remarks today, I will briefly connect three aspects. First in this context are the key priorities which we must secure within current EU negotiations. Secondly, there are certain internal adjustments of our own that we should make. Thirdly, in exporting UK higher education, and despite Brexit, we must now also aim to give a strong lead in Europe and beyond.
As we know, within Europe the Government have already guaranteed UK participation in Erasmus and Horizon 2020 for the next three years—the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, referred to this. However, the United Kingdom ought to remain within these schemes indefinitely. Since from this month our EU negotiations on all matters can be against a much clearer background, that applies not least to our request and endeavour to remain within the Erasmus and Horizon 2020 European schemes indefinitely. Can my noble friend Lord Younger of Leckie, therefore, affirm that that is what we will now seek to achieve?
Then there are necessary adjustments of our own which we should make. Last year in its excellent report Exiting the EU: Challenges and Opportunities for Higher Education, the Education Committee of another place drew attention to some of these. Its advice is to be heeded if we really want to retain and increase the numbers of international students coming to the United Kingdom from both EU and non-EU states.
Its prescription for visas is backed up by a recent London Economics report. This identifies a 20% decline in international undergraduates: that is the extent to which the change to visa arrangements in April 2012 has undoubtedly put them off coming to the UK to study in the first place. As a result, does my noble friend agree that, as already advocated by a number of noble Lords, there is a compelling case for reintroducing that which previously applied, which is that tier 4 students could stay on and work for two years after their studies?
Another disincentive derives from the inclusion of international students within net migration figures. Such inclusion is paradoxical in three respects. Fewer students apply since, as so classified, they feel unwelcome. At any time, not least post Brexit, a UK Government will obviously find it all the harder to demonstrate a reduction in net migration, at present announced as restricted to 100,000 per year, if international students are included as migrants when they do not have to be at all. Furthermore, the UK economy is thereby denied the well-evidenced and considerable supplements from those disincentivised international students who otherwise might have studied here and then stayed on to find jobs.
So far, the Government profess to be constrained by the United Nations definition, which describes a migrant as someone changing their normal place of residence for more than a year. Nevertheless, does my noble friend the Minister concur that the Government are perfectly at liberty to decouple students from official migration statistics in any event? As pointed out by my noble friends Lord Norton of Louth and Lord Holmes of Richmond, to do so is entirely consistent with the implied objective of this debate, which is to consolidate and build up the value to the United Kingdom of higher education as an export.
For international students, guaranteeing that the same fees and loans will still apply; a regional growth fund to replace and exceed European structural funding; and a forward- looking strategy to link higher education with future trade deals: these are further recommendations, all of which could be made quite easily as useful and necessary adjustments. Is my noble friend, therefore, of the view that they should be?
In 2014-15, it was estimated that international students accounted for roughly £25.8 billion in gross output to our economy. They greatly assist us socially and culturally, too, thus developing the UK’s soft power overseas, as already mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Parekh. However, recently and regrettably, those heartening records have worsened; our market share slipping against that of rival English-speaking countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, as well as against European countries, which now offer more courses in English.
Fortunately, we are still in an enviable position. Time and again, as my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth emphasised, we learn that international students in the UK develop an awareness and respect for our culture, governance, institutions and history; recent analysis indicating that 95% of UK university international graduates are favourably disposed towards the UK. Consequently, students returning to their home countries stand to become the UK’s greatest ambassadors and supporters.
Be that as it may, from abroad we are often perceived as half-hearted and lukewarm hosts. We have to correct that image and prove differently. Certainly, we must negotiate with the EU to remain in the Erasmus and Horizon 2020 schemes. We should also make necessary internal adjustments, as already outlined, to encourage more international students from all states across the world.
Yet the intervention of Brexit and its current timetable need not hold us up, for it is largely irrelevant to whether, when and how we might grasp the nettle. This we should do with conviction and straightaway, so that the value to the United Kingdom of its export of higher education can be continuously sustained through a positive and consistent response from overseas.
My Lords, I declare my interests as found in the register, particularly those relating to higher education.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, for securing this debate and for outlining some of the key issues, but begin by congratulating the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester on an excellent maiden speech, with its characteristic blend of deep pastoral concern, learning lightly worn and a keen appreciation of the importance of education. He and I share the pleasure of having a Cathedrals Group university in our dioceses. I am sure that my right reverend friend will contribute greatly to the deliberations of this House.
We know that this is a time of significant and rapid change in our universities, and some might well see it as a tempestuous period. It is therefore important to remind ourselves that our higher education sector is a national asset, attracting almost 450,000 students from outside the UK and consistently figuring in the top 200 institutions across the world—34 of those are British. Oxford University has been in the top position for the past two years in the Times Higher Education world rankings.
As the university APPG pointed out in 2017, and as other noble Lords have emphasised, in purely financial terms education is the UK’s fifth largest service exporter, with higher education contributing some two-thirds of its value. In addition, the strength of our international reputation generates other benefits: one in 10 world leaders has been educated in the UK; international students are more likely to recommend study here to others; and increased research and commercial links flow from joint activities such as transnational education ventures. We should note, however, that countries such as Australia are overtaking us, as the noble Lord, Lord Norton, confirmed.
At an individual level, some 76% of home students believe that studying alongside their international peers has given them a wider, more rounded world-view. At an institutional level, it is striking that over half of our research publications—the outward expression of our astonishingly high research standing—are co-authored with international colleagues.
This indicates that there is another dimension to what we export through our work in higher education. It is the underlying conviction that education is a good in and of itself and that aside from any economic or financial benefit—real and important as they are—the disciplined pursuit of truth and wisdom is crucial to forming the people and the society we aspire to be, and to become. That, in turn, implies that higher education also serves a common, a public, good and contributes—or can and should contribute—to the flourishing of local, national and international communities.
Historically, the Church has played a major part in fostering institutes of learning, whether in the person of my distinguished predecessors who founded colleges in Oxford, or the Victorian pioneers of teacher training colleges. The latter became the Cathedrals Group universities, which now educate one in three primary teachers, along with students of social work and nursing, health professionals and members of other vocational professions dedicated to public service.
The local economic impact of higher education is undeniable. To give some concrete illustrations, the diocese of Winchester is home to about 65,000 students across many institutions, including the Bournemouth universities, the University of Southampton, Southampton Solent University and the University of Winchester. The latter, established in 1840 to train teachers who would in turn teach in schools for the poor, employs over 700 staff in the local area. In a recent evaluation, even this smallish university was found to contribute £266 million a year to the local economy. Other noble Lords will be able to give, and have already given, equally striking examples.
This local economic impact, however, points to a wider impact. Today’s debate is about the value of higher education as an export. Yet as the American economist Robert E. Lipsey—not to be confused with the equally distinguished Member of your Lordships’ House—has pointed out that calculating the value of international trade in services, including education, is by no means straightforward even if restricted to purely financial metrics. That perhaps makes it even more important not to ignore the value of the transformative power of higher education and the significance of human flourishing, which I now see reflected in the mission statement of the Office for Students. It says:
“We want every student to have a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers”.
That is a great export for international students to take home. The invitation and welcome international students receive in the UK is part of what they will take with them. We therefore need to ensure that our higher education is as accessible as possible to international students—as many speakers have already urged—so that higher education can enrich their lives and careers. I too, therefore, urge Her Majesty’s Government to introduce more flexible arrangements for international students.
I add my welcome to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester and congratulate him on his insightful speech. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Norton, on initiating this important debate.
My personal experience of the higher education sector has been as a tutor and lecturer in medicine at Oxford University and also—until 2013—as Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University, which has flourishing overseas campuses.
Many universities now have senior posts dedicated to globalisation and their international relationships, and I shall take this activity as defining “the export of higher education”. Initially, this role was largely about ensuring that international students settled in well to the host institution and country, but over time it has expanded to include targeted recruitment abroad, with academics and marketing staff travelling overseas to advertise to and interview prospective students, and the development of courses specifically designed for students from abroad to study in their home country, sometimes led by online provision, but often through the development of satellite campuses.
The value of what the UK has to offer is considerable. The biggest international league table for assessing that is the Times Higher Education world university rankings, which lists the top 1,000 universities, representing no more than 5% of the 20,000 higher education institutes internationally. Ranking positions are derived from 13 different performance indicators, and the list is subject to external auditing. Overall, European institutions occupy half of the top 200 places, with the Netherlands, Germany and the UK being the most represented countries. The UK has 12 universities in the top 100 and three in the top 10—Imperial, Oxford and Cambridge—with the latter two in the top two positions.
Comparisons of data from the UK with those from the US, which holds the most places in the top 100, along with Germany and the Netherlands, indicate that the UK differs from its nearest European competitor—Germany, with 10 universities in the top 100—in having significantly fewer full-time students and a significantly lower staff to student ratio. UK universities do not, however, differ from their US counterparts in terms of the number of full-time students, the staff to student ratio, the percentage of international students or the percentage of females.
The UK universities, however, have a significantly greater so-called international outlook than the US universities, and compared with Germany and the Netherlands. International outlook is evaluated by how much a university is concerned with the development of a multicultural community of students and staff, the preparation of its students for global political and social environments, and the development of international alliances in research, education and business. It appears, then, that the UK higher education system is well positioned and well primed to be an international export; it is already world-leading, with a global outlook.
Why should the UK export its higher education? First, data from 2017 show that 30% of all academics in the UK are already international. This situation, however, is not yet being optimised in terms of developing a global, context-driven and internationalised curriculum. Secondly, in 2015 the Quality Assurance Agency suggested that the large numbers of international students studying at UK universities highlighted a great opportunity for them to be involved in shaping global and intercultural teaching and learning through co-construction of the curriculum.
Thirdly, many developing countries are experiencing a rapid growth in the number of students seeking higher education, and there is a strong appetite for qualifications from English-language, western institutions. American, Australian, British and Canadian universities are often seen as providing more modern and practical educations than those of local institutions, thus improving graduates’ prospects of finding well-paid jobs. Despite this, the cost of studying abroad may be prohibitive for some, while the cost of studying at a satellite campus is manageable. The US, in particular, has found that since 9/11 students from certain Middle Eastern countries have felt less safe in the States but are happy to study at satellite campuses. The same may be true of the UK since 7/7 and in the light of the Brexit referendum.
The fourth reason for exporting UK higher education is the potential collateral benefit to UK home students from international collaborations through, for example, study abroad programmes, where they may be hosted at their own satellite campuses, thus removing any concerns about credit transfer or quality of educational provision. Research has shown that governments and universities hold the view that students who study on internationalised campuses demonstrate greater knowledge of international events, perspectives and methods. It has been further observed that these students are viewed as better prepared to contribute positively to local, regional, national and international progress because they develop the skills deemed necessary for a modern workforce and global conditions, such as second-language acquisition, cultural awareness, international contacts and adaptation skills. Additionally, this is in line with the Europe 2020 priority of inclusive growth and the headline statistic of aiming to achieve 20% of graduates having spent a study or training period abroad by 2020.
Fifthly, a further collateral benefit comes in the form of research collaboration and the provision of a steady supply of students from abroad joining the university as postgraduate students. At present in the UK, international students make up 60% of those studying at postgraduate level. However, if this is their first experience of studying in UK-style institutions or in English, they can face considerable challenges. In contrast, if they have studied at satellite campuses they may be better placed to settle into their UK university campus at postgraduate level.
President Clinton once remarked that the nations of the world had progressed from isolation to interaction—albeit positive or negative—and were finally on track for integration. Higher education is an increasingly globally integrated activity. The UK needs to ensure that it plays a central part in maximising all the opportunities it will indubitably bring for everyone.
My Lords, I remind the House of my interest as master of Pembroke College, Cambridge. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Norton, on his choice of subject and on an excellent opening contribution to this extremely good debate. I greatly enjoyed the contribution from the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Chichester in his maiden speech. I trust that we will hear much more from him as part of our discourse in the years to come. I was particularly impressed by his reference to some of his distinguished predecessors. I recall, however, that one of my predecessors as master of Pembroke was Bishop Nicholas Ridley, who was burned at the stake by Queen Mary. I have to observe that I trust this practice will not be revived in current times.
The starting point for our discussions on this subject has to be that our best universities are globally significant institutions. Not many things these days that we do as a country are genuinely world-beating. There is the BBC, our best and greatest museums and galleries, our theatre and our artistic endeavour, but I believe that our best universities head that list. Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial and UCL are consistently in the top 10 universities worldwide; many others are in the top 100. This is because of the robustness of the educational and teaching experience provided to students, and the quality of research undertaken.
However, part of this success is down to the opportunities that we offer for international students to come and study here. The numbers, of course, vary from institution to institution. In Pembroke, 20% of our undergraduates and some 60% of our postgraduates come from abroad. Those opportunities bring a whole range of benefits, as many noble Lords have mentioned in this debate. They bring in essential income for our universities. Especially in STEM subjects, home fees simply do not cover the full cost of providing the education that is offered. Overseas students also bring in essential income for the entire national economy but in many ways there are much more important non-economic arguments.
First, attracting the best and brightest students from wherever they come, including from across the world, enhances the sense of aspiration that each cohort of students has; it means that they wish to learn even more strongly than they might otherwise do. Secondly, the social, cultural and educational benefit from mixing with fellow students from a wide variety of backgrounds is enormous. Our students learn about other cultures and other life experiences. They develop a better understanding of the wider world because of the contact that they have with international students. Thirdly, as has been mentioned many times, the soft power impact of the experience gained by international students while here is something that they carry with them for the rest of their lives. They go on to run countries, businesses and organisations. Over the last 40 years, I have met leaders from around the world who had experience here as international students and feel positively about the UK as a result. Fourthly, many of the big issues that we face now are global in nature: climate change; migration; global health; and the effectiveness of development policies. These things cannot and should not be studied in isolation. They are things where international engagement is essential if we are to understand and resolve some of these problems effectively.
Why, then, are we as a country making it so difficult to sustain this engagement with international students? First, of course, there is the madness of Brexit. Not only do we suffer the diminished standing around the world that we now have as a result of our decision, but EU students in particular are now wondering whether they are really welcome here. The Government have of course guaranteed the fee levels for those undergraduates starting this year and next but there is uncertainty beyond that. We are already finding locally that the numbers of applicants are beginning to fall. Secondly, we have the equal madness of insisting on counting international students within the overall net migration statistics. Almost every contributor to this debate has mentioned this as a serious problem. No one thinks it is sensible, not even the Minister’s department. It appears to be only the Prime Minister who is adamant that it should continue. The reality is that students come for three years and then go back home, enhanced by their experience and feeling warm about the UK. There are very low levels of recidivism in terms of overstaying; students study and return. The case for counting students separately from the overall migration totals is overwhelming.
When we turn to postgraduate study and subsequent research, the picture is even clearer. There are real benefits for the quality and content of research, the collaboration and the benefits that can bring, and the advancement of knowledge and understanding. One of the worst things that anyone has said in recent years was, “We’ve had too much of experts”. The need for knowledge, expertise, the analysis of real evidence and attachment to fact rather than theory are the building blocks of future success as a nation. Research and the role of our universities in it is the way that we do that. Again, Brexit is making all this infinitely more difficult. Access to European research funding is likely to be much harder after Brexit, while UK universities have of course especially benefited from European funding in this respect—way beyond what would be a per capita proportion if we were not able to get that research funding in such quantity.
The ease of research collaboration has been mentioned, especially by the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria. Most ground-breaking research now is not done in isolation by a single academic in a single institution; it requires collaboration across national boundaries. Within the EU at the moment, this is easy; it means regular contact, the sharing of ideas and discoveries, attendance at workshops and conferences—there is ease of collaboration. If we go ahead with Brexit—especially if it is a no-deal Brexit, which I fear looks increasingly like the only option that will be on the table—this will all become infinitely harder.
Then, for those coming here from elsewhere around the world as research students, post-doctoral assistants, research fellows and early-career lecturers, there is a complex struggle to get the appropriate visa and navigate the bureaucracy. I have three particular pleas on this. First, ease the tier 1 route for exceptional talent. Secondly, expand the tier 4 pilot scheme, which is especially important for master’s students. Thirdly, if we end up with a hard and horrible Brexit, make it a priority to ensure swift visa provision for master’s students, research students, post-doctoral contributors and academics coming here to teach.
I have one other brief thing to say. Some UK universities have established satellite campuses abroad. This would not be appropriate for Cambridge colleges, where the importance of location and face-to-face contact is so crucial, but for some universities it is a vital part of their sustainability. What is potentially more important, even for the wide spread of universities, is the development of twinning arrangements and partnerships with universities or faculties around the world, not just with the Stanfords, MITs and Harvards but with universities in Africa and Asia and across the rest of Europe. The potential for shared projects and exchanges of academics, students and researchers is huge. Let us try to make this easier rather than more difficult.
In summary, our universities are strong. They have much to offer the world, and as a result they have much to offer the UK’s economy and society. Let us remove the obstacles that are currently making all this harder. There is so much to be gained.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Norton for the opportunity to discuss this important topic today, and I thank noble Lords for the opportunity to speak in the gap for a quick four minutes. I welcome the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester and congratulate him on his eloquent maiden speech.
As we approach Brexit, there will be a great deal of interest in how the UK can maximise opportunities to trade and engage with a wider range of international partners as well as securing and maintaining strong relationships with our European partners. That is vital if we are to continue to enhance the future prestige and prosperity of UK higher education. Education is already a major service export for the UK but there is substantial capacity left to grow. We need to invest to maintain our current position as the second most popular global destination for international students and as the leading provider of transnational education. In encouraging our international students to study in the UK, much more has to be done to increase the number of UK students who benefit from overseas work or study experiences as part of their university degree. As it is said, globally mobile students can be some of our most rewarding and powerful ambassadors, welcoming people to our outward-looking UK. I am also pleased that the Government recognise the important contribution made by students and academics from EU member states to the UK’s world-class universities.
The global UK must be a country that looks to the future. There is much at stake. The challenge now is to emerge from this period of uncertainty with a clear strategy coupled with a bold ambition for the sector’s future growth, and of course prosperity. Along with free trade agreements, such a strategy must enhance opportunities for UK higher education after Brexit but, alongside this, ensure that such agreements do not push back previous strong collaboration and expose UK universities to unnecessary risks. However, a modern university must be globally engaged—recruiting staff and students from across the world; making strong partnerships with international organisations; providing an intercultural education and thereby producing graduates with the experience to work across cultural boundaries; promoting international research; and producing outputs of international significance that have great impact. A bold forward-looking strategy must take advantage of the global reach of modern universities and therefore ensure that higher education plays a strategic role in the much-awaited future trade deals. Data confirms the increasing value of higher education as a major export industry; to lose that would be, at the very least, regrettable.
Importantly, this highlights the immense economic contribution of international students coming to study. It not just their economic benefit that is so invaluable; international students from the EU and beyond contribute to a diverse student body and a thriving society, culture and economy as well as on campus in local regions and across the whole UK. To achieve a key aim of the industrial strategy to drive up exports, universities have the potential to grow and sustain this market further, but we must streamline the visa process.
Universities have a huge and increasingly significant impact on the UK economy and jobs. Higher education in the UK is a world-class sector. Our universities rank among the best and produce highly regarded research, making them attractive to international students and staff. Their value is there for all to see.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Norton, for initiating this debate. I agree with his comment that our world leadership in higher education is under threat. I also congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester on his maiden speech. When I was training to be a teacher at St Katharine’s Church of England College in Liverpool, I went on a field trip to the Anglican college in Chichester and had a wonderful time—so I have happy memories of Chichester.
The noble Lord said we were in danger of losing our world status and that it was under threat. You have only to look at today’s BBC news online to see a story entitled “Australia overtaking UK for overseas students”. It states:
“Researchers at UCL’s Centre for Global Higher Education say the UK is being pushed into third place behind the United States and Australia. Australia has been rapidly expanding its international student numbers”.
And how about this for a comment:
“The British Council says it shows the UK needs to ‘look again’ at its policies towards overseas students”?
Well, there’s a thing.
I have listened with great interest to noble Lords’ speeches on the economic value to the UK of higher education as an export. Last night I was at the chancellor’s dinner at Hope University in Liverpool—a gold-rated university, the Minister will be pleased to know. It is Europe’s only ecumenical university, where Roman Catholics and Anglicans come together. I sat next to the professor who headed up the faculty of science. He was from India and was also a Hindu priest. Hope Voices sang, and in the choir was a Nigerian woman who is going on to do her master’s at the college. There were young people from all over the world. I thought, “Isn’t this absolutely wonderful?” Forget for a moment the economic importance of overseas students—I shall come to that—is it not wonderful that we are being enriched culturally by people from different backgrounds, different faiths and different countries? I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, that to make that work we have to look at how we welcome, encourage and support those students. They have come to a different culture, and we have to make our culture welcoming for them, just as we accept and welcome their culture.
This morning we learned about Australia overtaking us in the recruitment of overseas students. An export market worth £25 billion is very significant—and the £3.4 billion that it brings to London each year supports a whole range of employment. For a whole variety of reasons, we are no longer a major manufacturing country but have to concentrate on high-value, low-volume exports. Higher education is one of the highest-value industries—but, of course, lowest in the volume of physical goods that it produces.
We are still among the world leaders in higher education, where our domestic universities are some of the most attractive places to study for students from around the globe. One in seven overseas students at a Russell group university brings in £1 million—but it is not just Russell group universities; it is universities right across the country. It is also about universities going out to other countries to establish campuses. The noble Lord, Lord Smith, seemed to say, “Well, Oxford and Cambridge wouldn’t do that, would they?” But actually it is really important that perhaps they should do that. I welcome the fact that Liverpool University has a campus in China and that many other universities have campuses throughout the world, including in China, India and the Middle East. That encourages the opportunity for us to grow that market.
The export market in higher education is important to us. Higher education is labour intensive, of course, but does not require massive capital investment: building a faculty requires much less capital than a new car-manufacturing plant demands. On the question of capital, it is our human capital that is our greatest asset, and we must nurture and encourage it.
I know that this debate is about higher education, but earlier this week we discussed the importance of introducing primary children to the world of work—not, you understand, a return to sending youngsters up chimneys but raising every child’s career aspirations. More and more of our young people will be needed to fill the jobs in our higher education sector, whether as academics or support staff. Indeed, it is not just the higher education export market that is growing in size and influence; a number of independent schools are building schools in the Middle East, China and India.
In China, for example, there is a growing demand for English education, and more and more Chinese early-years settings are introducing a curriculum based on our early-years foundation stage, employing teachers and experts from England to train Chinese early-years professionals. I was speaking to a colleague only this week about his recent visit to southern China, where he was promoting the English education system, which is proving enormously attractive to a growing number of Chinese parents.
Our higher education export market is not, of course, just about balance sheets. As is too often the case with matters educational, we are reduced to talking about numbers and the cash value of education. It was Margaret Thatcher who embedded the idea that getting a better place in a popular school was like buying a popular washing machine. The concept of education as a commodity like any other seems strange to me.
We have heard plenty about the quantifiable economic benefits of a strong HE export market, but I would like to return to the soft—if that is an acceptable word in our Brexit-focused world—benefits of being a world leader in higher education and in education more widely. One potential threat to this market is our exit from the EU, if that ever comes about. However, there is already some anecdotal evidence of what you might call academic planning blight, as we struggle to remain in some pan-European research projects. Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, said:
“The downturn in the UK’s participation in Horizon 2020, the EU’s programme for research and innovation, is concerning. It highlights the urgent need for clarity on the UK’s participation in Horizon 2020 beyond Brexit and, while the UK is still a member of the EU, the need to communicate that the UK’s universities and researchers are still eligible to participate and apply for funding through EU research and innovation programmes. The UK benefits enormously from access to the vital networks, funding and talent Horizon 2020 provides. It allows researchers to collaborate with world-leading experts on life-changing research, with knock-on benefits for the economy, society and individuals in the UK”.
It will never be possible to quantify, but, in European consortia planning meetings, post- Brexit complications might well mean that it is simpler not to include UK partners. If we do ever leave the EU, we will have to try even harder to maintain our position as a world leader. In terms of our global efforts, we are not, of course, without competitors. As I mentioned at the beginning of my contribution, we are now third, behind Australia, in attracting overseas students, and Canada is rising up the ranks of chief exporters of HE. Going from gold to silver to bronze position will be hard enough to accept, but we must certainly avoid being knocked from the HE export podium altogether. Scandinavian countries are also getting in there.
Apart from the numbers, of course, foreign students still bring a very valuable diversity to our education system and to the communities they live in. We are not yet doing enough to attract students from Africa, South America and Asia, where there are increasing numbers of students seeking to study abroad.
I will quickly raise two other points. As well as attracting students, we have to make sure that our universities have academic integrity, which means that we have to look at all the sorts of issues that might affect that integrity—essay mills, contract cheating, and bogus colleges and private colleges that attract overseas students and provide appalling facilities. If we do not get that right, other countries will say, “Don’t go to the UK because this is what happens when you do”.
Finally, we hear a lot about global Britain. If you had a business generating £25.8 billion to the economy and brought in world research and development while culturally enriching our society, you would do everything that you could to nurture and develop it. Yet it seems that, perhaps for political expediency, the Government are hell-bent on allowing our competitors never mind to get a foot in the door but to push it wide open. I hope that the Minister will tell us not just where we are but where we hope to be and how we are going to get there and ensure that this hugely important market grows for this country.
My Lords, it is entirely appropriate, given his distinguished academic reputation, that the noble Lord, Lord Norton, secured this important debate, and it is fair to say that the quality of contributions that it has drawn today more than justifies that initiative.
I congratulate, too, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester on a fine maiden speech, in which he highlighted the benefits of learning in general and in higher education in particular. I look forward to hearing more contributions from him in the months and years ahead.
There can be no doubting the value to the country in terms of the wealth generated by the higher education sector. All noble Lords have cited those figures, and I do not intend to repeat them. It is, however, worth while emphasising that, last year, the Department for Education said that, in 2014—the most recent year for which accurate figures are available—the total value of UK high education sector exports and transnational education activity was in excess of £12.4 billion. The sector brings economic, cultural and academic benefits to these shores and, as my noble friend Lord Parekh said, the presence of overseas students opens the minds of UK students to different cultures, broadens their outlooks and enriches them in general. The benefits are generated by modern as well as ancient universities and, as this debate concerns the UK, it should not be forgotten that they are felt in every country and region, in terms of jobs both on and off campus as well as the wider local economies, particularly small businesses.
Two weeks ago, noble Lords debated part-time and continuing education and the role of the Open University and that is also relevant to today’s debate, because the value of distance learning extends not only around the UK—the Open University works with 27 overseas partners in 20 countries. The bullish comments in the Times today by Sir Michael Barber augur well for the much-criticised Office for Students strengthening the sector’s reputation. The figures brook no argument as to the importance of the contribution that higher education makes to the UK economy—all the more reason, then, to ensure that that contribution is not diminished in the years ahead. As the noble Lord, Lord Norton, said, diminution is already happening, although the impression gained is that the Government do not share the concern and are not aware, or at least not fully aware, of the risks that face the sector.
Of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury, emphasised, the main threat stems from the fact that we are leaving the European Union. More than two years on from the referendum, the Government still have no credible or coherent plan for what life after the EU will, or even might, look like. It is not that the Government have not been warned. In April last year, a House of Commons Education Committee report noted the “significant uncertainty” caused in the higher education sector by the UK leaving the EU. The committee highlighted areas for the Government to prioritise, including: improvements to the immigration system to ensure better movement to and from our universities, which would involve the removal of overseas students from net migration figures; continued involvement in research frameworks, such as Horizon 2020, and planning for domestic funding for a scenario where access fails; and continued involvement in Erasmus, or a home-grown replacement, with an ambitious mobility strategy for universities. Fifteen months later, none of these crucial issues has been meaningfully addressed, let alone resolved.
That report also recommended that the Department for Education, in co-operation with the Home Office and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, should publish a contingency plan for higher education to prepare for a no-deal situation. I have to say that, as the shambolic last few days have illustrated, there are a significant number of Tory MPs who are determined to bring about a no-deal situation, irrespective of the terrible costs that that would entail and the jobs and livelihoods that it would destroy. In their response to the report, the Government said:
“we … encourage the sector to continue to think about what it could do to best prepare for our exit from the EU–whether in mitigating potential risks or in taking advantage of new opportunities”.
I am sure that there were many in the sector who thought that a rather patronising suggestion; it is fairly clear to me that the higher education sector had worked out for itself the necessity of mitigating potential risks or taking advantage of new opportunities. That is what many have been doing since probably the day after the referendum, and many have made considerable progress.
However, the options available to higher education institutions remain restricted by the Government’s intransigence on the issue of international students coming to the UK. In 2014-15, international students paid almost £5 billion in tuition fees to UK universities, which is, I understand, around 15% of their total income. Yet the Government send out the message that international students are seen as part of this country’s perceived “immigration problem”, because they insist that students remain in the Government’s net migration target. The noble Lord, Lord Smith, said that only the Prime Minister seems to continue to believe that this is appropriate. That may date back to her being the Home Secretary who introduced the measure and may now risk losing face if that were to change. But surely we want the UK to be regarded as a welcoming place by young people choosing where to study.
In recent years, the UK higher education sector has suffered a decline in market share, and global competitors—as we have heard—are developing attractive offers to students that this country has not effectively responded to. The risk is surely that the UK will be left behind, which is a situation that, as a country, we simply cannot afford in either academic or financial terms. The noble Lord, Lord Norton, referred to the decline in the numbers of students from India. That should be a worry to the Government, given the size of India, or so we would have thought, but apparently not. Last month, in a Written Question, I sought to ascertain why, when more countries were included in the expanded low-risk tier 4 visa category for overseas students, India was not among them. The response from the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, was that the decision was arrived at,
“taking into account objective analysis of a range of factors including the volume of students from a country and their Tier 4 immigration compliance risk”.
That is a not very veiled comment on the trustworthiness of students from India, which I think is a disgraceful slight on that nation.
Can the Minister say what initiatives the Government intend to take to increase the numbers of international students in both short-term and full-time study in the UK and to ensure that the UK is seen as a welcoming country to students globally? Do Ministers and officials from the Department for Education and Home Office meet to discuss the issue of international students and the net migration figures? The Government have commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee to provide an objective assessment of the impact of EU and international students, which is due to report by September. That is two months away and the Government will then presumably require further time to consider the report. The clock is ticking towards our exit from the EU, and it is unlikely that any change in policy on this issue will be able to influence student applications until the 2020-21 academic year at the earliest. Meanwhile, competitor countries will not be standing still; they will be seeking to capitalise on our indecision.
Labour believes that there should be no national target to restrict the numbers of students coming to the UK. As a minimum—as the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, and others have said—the Government should immediately remove overseas students from the net migration target. Many prospective EU students are now inquiring about studying in the UK from 2019, but Ministers have so far failed to clarify their status beyond 2020. What are the Government doing to address the longer-term status of EU students? Any changes to free movement rules for EU nationals, such as applying to them the visa requirements that currently apply to non-EU nationals, would give rise to a substantial barrier to entry on the grounds of immigration status to EU nationals. This would not just affect the top universities. Barriers such as this would reduce the UK’s attractiveness as a destination for study, making it more difficult for specialist institutions such as London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama to attract the most talented from important European centres of training.
Postgraduate study and work are also important factors. Will the Government consider suggestions made by Imperial College, 60% of whose students and 40% of whose staff come from outside the UK, that the tier 4 pilot scheme for master’s students should be expanded, or that a new post-study work visa for the best STEM graduates—another point made by the noble Lord, Lord Norton—should be introduced?
The ability to collaborate across borders with people from different backgrounds, cultures and nationalities is what drives the world’s best universities. As many noble Lords have said, the UK has many of the world’s best universities, and the Government’s lack of planning stands to threaten not just their status but those of all higher education institutions in the UK. The higher education sector stands exposed, and we are already beyond the point when the Government should have begun taking decisive action. Many in the sector will be following this debate and hoping that the Minister is about to give them some encouragement that the void in government policy is about to be filled. We await his words of wisdom, and of hope, with much interest.
My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth for tabling this debate to take note of the value to the United Kingdom of higher education as an export. I am reminded of my own undergraduate days spent in a small city on the East Neuk of Fife. Let me start by unashamedly congratulating my old alma mater, St Andrews. Today, that city welcomes students from over 140 countries worldwide. I know that many other university towns and cities do the same. It is a remarkable demonstration of the global reach of our higher education institutions in the UK.
Talking of cities, we have rather done the rounds this afternoon. We heard about Winchester, with its cultural and educational focus, and, from the noble Lord, Lord Smith, about Cambridge and Pembroke—but above all, we heard about Chichester. I was particularly pleased to hear the right reverend Prelate’s warm, interesting and informative maiden speech about this remarkable city, a place where I spent every summer as a boy. In the way that he marketed that great city to us, he provided us with an educational insight. Chichester’s excellent mix of arts, science and cultural and theological life clearly remains a great asset. Speaking of which, the right reverend Prelate will clearly add considerably to the contributions to this House. I also note the excellent appreciation that the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, gave to the right reverend Prelate’s speech.
Universities generated a £52.9 billion gross value added contribution to UK GDP in 2014-15. Yes, that is a large figure, representing 2.9% of all UK economic activity, and international students are a very important part of that. As the noble Lord, Lord Smith, said, we attract the brightest and best from around the world, and that has been a theme of today’s debate. According to the latest data, in one year alone they contributed an estimated £11.5 billion to the UK economy through only tuition fees and living expenditure. This means that higher education generates more output than many other sectors, including advertising and market research, legal services, computer manufacturing, basic pharmaceuticals and air transport, to name a few.
Statistics published by the DfE earlier this year estimated that the total value of UK education exports and transnational education activity was £19.3 billion in 2015. That is an increase of 22% since 2010. Higher education accounted for 67%—£12.9 billion—of this exports value. Let me attempt to define what we mean by value, although my noble friend Lord Norton covered it with his customary experience and was very thorough. There is, of course, a financial aspect—the money that education exports bring to institutions and the UK—but, as he said, there is also value in the cultural diversity that international students and internationalised institutions bring. For example, our world-renowned research base is enriched and better connected. International alumni form a resource to market our higher education offer around the world, as well as becoming ambassadors for the UK. International education collaboration also helps to generate diplomatic good will and soft power for the UK.
The UK is very successful in attracting students from around the world. Indeed, only the US attracts more than we do—although I took note of the points made about Australia. Perhaps this is unsurprising given the UK’s excellent higher education reputation around the world. Eighteen UK higher education institutions feature in the top 100 of the QS World University Rankings 2018, and four in the top 10. International and EU students make up an important part of the student body. There were 135,000 EU students and 308,000 non-EU students in the academic year 2016-17. So it is encouraging that the latest data show a 2% rise in the number of UCAS applications from the EU and, separately, a 6% increase in university-sponsored visa applications for non-EU international students. We also recognise that international and EU staff are important for the UK higher education sector. Non-UK nationals made up 30% of academic staff in 2016-17 and 10% of non-academic staff. These numbers have been growing steadily.
I want to address some of the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and the noble Lords, Lord Smith and Lord Storey, about the importance of how international students are welcomed to the UK. This has to include the initial welcome, the introductions that are made, dealing with any language issues that might crop up, support when they first come, and ongoing advice that might be needed. Some noble Lords might say that the same should apply for UK students, but I am obviously talking about international students here. I reinforce the point that we very much welcome international students. We hope that they enjoy their time living and studying in the UK. In a recent report by UUKi, the UK ranked top among its competitor nations in the five key measures of student experience, including overall satisfaction, arrival and orientation, and support services. Some 91% of international students across all levels of study reported that they are satisfied with their experience in the UK.
The noble Lords, Lord Parekh and Lord Bilimoria, asked what action the Government were taking to welcome the Indian diaspora, which is a fair point. I recognise that we have had a period of reduced numbers of Indian students. That is why I welcome the 30% increase in the number of study-related visas granted to Indian nationals to 15,171 in the year ending March 2018. This follows a targeted programme by the British Council in India to welcome Indian students to the UK, but there is more we can do.
UK universities are also forging ahead with innovative ways of delivering their services overseas. The noble Lord, Lord Storey, mentioned our reach to China. The University of Nottingham was invited to become the first foreign university to establish an independent campus in China. Lancaster University is the first British branch campus in Ghana and the only one of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. UK universities are often at the forefront of pioneering alternative forms of international provision, including online learning, blended programmes and joint degrees. These opportunities are open to our universities because they offer a high-quality education to students from around the world. Only a couple of days ago, I had the pleasure of hearing directly about the work of the Open University—a pioneer in distance learning and flexible study.
Research in the UK is world class. The noble Baronesses, Lady Deech and Lady Greenfield, and the noble Lord, Lord Smith, alluded to this area. The UK is home to 0.9% of the global population but of 4.1% of the world’s researchers, and it accounts for 2.7% of global R&D expenditure. At the same time, we produce 6.3% of articles, 9.9% of downloads—I can give an explanation later about what that means—10.7% of citations, and 15.2% of the world’s most highly cited articles. The UK places a high value on international engagement. Over 51% of all UK publications in 2014 were internationally co-authored, with a diverse range of countries. The UK’s share of international co-authorship has been increasing annually from 2010.
Continuing to work with international partners is critical. Our research strength and our innovation have been built upon a history of collaboration—a word we have already heard, when the case for collaboration was made strongly by the noble Lords, Lord Bilimoria and Lord Smith. Collaboration has helped the UK to become the centre of excellence that it is today. That is why the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, has launched a prestigious, £900 million UK Research and Innovation future leaders fellowship scheme, which is open to the best researchers from around the world. This investment will fund at least 550 new fellowships for global business talent. Our investment of £65 million makes the UK a major partner in the world-leading deep underground neutrino experiment—the first international “mega science” project on US soil. Programmes such as the global challenges research fund and the Newton Fund help us to foster international collaboration as we work together to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time, such as clean energy and automation.
The noble Baroness, Lady Deech, the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, and the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, asked about Horizon Europe and if we will maintain involvement. We wish to explore association with innovation and research programmes, including Horizon Europe and Euratom research and training. We intend to engage fully and constructively in the design of these programmes, and we welcome the chance to discuss these specific arrangements with the European Commission.
There are other benefits of higher education exports that are perhaps more difficult to measure, yet no less critical. International students in the UK add to the diversity of the student body, contribute to the academic debate and help to create a more global mindset for our own young people. Higher education exports also make an important contribution to the UK’s “soft power”—which is probably not the greatest term, but I think that we probably have to live with it.
Students from all walks of life return home having built a positive experience and knowledge of the UK—as my noble friend Lady Redfern said—not to mention important alumni networks and lifelong friendships. Indeed, studies suggest that many world leaders attended higher-level education in the UK. That came out in the speech from my noble friend Lord Holmes. These personal connections with Britain help to build long-term social, political and trade links with other countries—and what value that brings the UK in terms of diplomatic and soft power.
I turn now to what the Government are doing to support education exports. The sector is making great efforts to promote and expand HE exports. The British Council, Universities UK International and individual universities all do this vital work. It is right that the sector itself plays a leading role, but the Government are committed to supporting its ambitions. We believe that we are in a very strong position with our global market share, but know that we cannot rest on our laurels in the face of international competition. I picked up many messages concerning that in the Chamber today. Australia, New Zealand and Canada are now seeing increases in overseas students, as are European countries that are increasingly offering courses in English. That is why we established the Department for International Trade education sector advisory group. Chaired by the Department for International Trade, Ministers from both the DIT and the DfE attend this group, along with organisations representing all areas of the education sector. It ensures that the Government understand what the sector needs and that we work together to boost UK education exports.
The DIT supports UK business by organising trade missions and inward delegations to the UK, and by publishing export opportunities online to inform the UK education sector. My noble friend Lord Norton raised an important point about the marketing of universities. I reassure him that we actively promote study in the UK through the GREAT campaign, which was mentioned, and through the British Council, which promotes the UK in over 100 countries, connecting millions of people.
To answer the point of my noble friend Lord Holmes, not just on India but perhaps all countries: we want you and your children. We can offer curry—I say this from my particular position—as well as a well-known beer brand.
My noble friend Lord Norton of Louth asked what more we can do to boost the GREAT campaign. We are always looking for ways to make it even more effective. The Department for International Trade and the DfE are working closely with the sector to explore how best to boost exports in education, including through programmes such as the GREAT campaign.
I know that the sector wants to know what EU exit will mean for its students. To help give certainty, we have given guarantees on student finance for EU students starting courses in the 2019-20 academic year or before, and assurances on research funding. The noble Lords, Lord Bilimoria, Lord Smith and Lord Watson, asked what assurances the Government can give about students for the following academic year. We recognise how important it is that students and institutions have information on student support eligibility before course applications open. Applications for courses starting in the academic year 2020-21 do not open until September 2019, but we will ensure that students and institutions have the information they need well in advance of this date.
My noble friend Lord Dundee asked about the reintroduction of post-study work for tier 4 students to stay and work for two years of the study. He will note that the Government closed the post-study work route under tier 1 of the visa system in 2012 to tackle the large numbers of fraudulent applications and graduates remaining unemployed or in low-skilled work. Graduates can stay on to work in the UK by switching into a number of easy routes such as the tier 2 skilled worker visa, which over 5,000 students did in 2016.
The noble Lords, Lord Holmes, Lord Norton, Lord Parekh, Lord Smith, and nearly every Peer who spoke in this debate, raised the important issue of student numbers being kept within the net migration target. What I am about to say will not necessarily be new to noble Lords, and I am certain that we could have a long and full debate about it. However, I have listened to the points raised this afternoon, and they will be passed on. I say again that migration statistics are independently produced by the ONS. Like other migrants, international students who stay for longer than 12 months have an impact on communities, infrastructure and services, so they are included in the net migration statistics to provide necessary data. However, this does not act in any way to their detriment. There is no limit on the number of genuine international students who can come to the UK, or any plans to limit any institution’s ability to recruit them.
To help inform decisions on the future migration system, the Government have commissioned the independent Migration Advisory Committee to provide an objective assessment of the impact of EU and non-EU students by September. This has provided an important opportunity for the sector to feed in views, and I am pleased to see that it has actively engaged with the review.
In the meantime, we continue to support the competitiveness of our world-leading HE providers: for example, by rolling out the tier 4 pilot, mentioned by my noble friend Lord Norton, which streamlines the visa process for postgraduate students at 27 universities. Just as importantly, it gives them extended leave of up to six months to find a graduate-level job. I hope that, if the pilot is successful, it can be rolled out further so that more institutions and their international students can benefit.
The noble Lord, Lord Storey, asked a question about maintaining academic integrity by stopping contract cheating. I know that he works tirelessly on the subject, and we recently had a short debate in this House on it. We believe that the best approach to tackling this issue is, as he knows, with a sector-led, non-legislative initiative in the first instance, and we are working closely with the OfS and the QAA’s new academic integrity advisory group—I believe the noble Lord is a member—to evaluate the effectiveness of the guidance. We remain open to the future possibility of legislation, but certainly there is no guarantee of that.
I begin my concluding remarks by saying a few important words about where we are with higher education. I strongly believe that the UK continues to be an attractive destination for students globally, which is reflected in the continuing high numbers of overseas students who choose to study here. We are highly competitive in the global mobile student market, second only to the US in the number of international, EU and non-EU students that we attract, but we are not resting on our laurels.
On the back of the Higher Education and Research Act that we took through last year there will be the provision for a faster and simpler route for high-quality new providers to enter the sector and gain degree-awarding powers. We want to ensure that those with new and innovative ideas for setting up institutions can do so and make as much of these opportunities as possible, which of course encourages students from all over the world.
I appreciate, as I think do all noble Lords, the thorough way in which the Minister has answered so many of the questions we have raised, and we appreciate the British Council and the GREAT campaign. But I asked an important question about India being excluded from the 11 countries that were added for the fast-track scheme for student visas. In fact, yesterday the attaché from the Indian High Commission was very upset about that. A clear answer to that question was not given.
I recall that the noble Lord raised that point. I do not have a definitive answer, but I will write to the noble Lord to give him a full answer as to why that has happened and what the Government are doing about it.
In the spirit of new providers starting up, I mention once again the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology. It exemplifies the diversity and innovation of the offer we believe we have in the UK, which we must support the sector in showcasing to the rest of the world. We are rightly proud of what our universities contribute to research, academia, the economy, and the enrichment of lives across the globe, and we are committed to promoting the UK’s offer of excellence in higher education around the world.
My Lords, I am extremely grateful to everyone who has spoken in this debate. There have been some excellent contributions, including the splendid maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester.
There has been a clear message throughout this debate. I recall how a few years back I initiated a debate on the need for an evidence-based drugs policy, and in replying, the Minister said that opinions on the subject were divided. Afterwards someone pointed out that in fact there had been no division of opinion in that debate—everybody was agreed—and that the only person who had taken issue was the Minister.
It is quite clear that the export of higher education is a vital resource for the United Kingdom. It is a public good at any time but it is especially important today when we need to strengthen our economy, bolster research in our universities and enhance our influence internationally. As various noble Lords have stressed, overseas students enrich our universities. I benefit enormously from my own postgraduate students who now span the globe—one went on to be his country’s Minister for Finance. Higher education adds to our global reputation—we benefit enormously and our students benefit enormously from the interaction with those students.
I thank my noble friend Lord Younger for replying to the debate. I suspect with my noble friend you are actually preaching to the converted. The problem is not with the Department for Education, the Foreign Office or the Department for International Trade, it is essentially with the Home Office and I appreciate that my noble friend may have been limited in what he could say. The key point, which has clearly come over, is that unless action is taken, we are going to find ourselves at an increasing disadvantage, not only in recruiting non-EU students but also ones from EU states.
I reiterate that there has to be a culture shift on the part of the Government and especially the Home Office. I hope my noble friend will deliver on what he said and convey the message he has heard in this debate to his colleagues in government and ensure that what we have said is heard clearly and loudly. If he does, he will find that he has very strong support.