A huge charm offensive to attract university students to the UK from Latin America has been undertaken by two British Ministers.
Vince Cable – UK Business Secretary – and David Willetts – Universities Minister – have travelled to Brazil, Mexico and Columbia recently.
There has been a large drop in the number of university students coming to the UK from traditional markets such as India. Many blame the constant changes to and crackdown on student visas.
Many universities rely heavily on income derived from international students due to higher tuition fees – that is student migrants form outside the EU – and many are concerned about falling numbers and falling revenue.
The London Met saga has probably contributed to the drop in numbers, with potential students put-off studying in the UK.
And now Ministers are turning to Latin America to stimulate growth in the UK education sector.
Brazil has stated many times that it wants more of its citizens to be educated in the West, and have set-up a successful scholarship programme, the Science Without Borders Scheme. It aims to send 101,000 Brazilian students to further education courses all over the world.
The Scheme also allows Brazilian students to spend three months in industry. Placements are available with Ford UK, GlaxoSmithKline and Unilever as part of a degree course.
So far more than 1,100 students have received scholarships through the scheme.
The UK has not traditionally been a popular study destination for Brazilians. Brazil sends less international students to the UK than both Jordan and Kuwait, who have significance much smaller populations. In the year 2011 – 2012, there were 1,340 students from Brazil studying in the UK.
Whilst Vince Cable visited Brazil, David Willetts visited Mexico and Columbia. Mr Willetts said, “Few countries are able to match the UK for providing a top-quality university education. The success of Science Without Borders in attracting Brazilian students is testament to this, and although the programme will generate over £200m for the UK economy, its impact goes far beyond the financial.”
“Attracting more students from emerging economies like Mexico and Colombia will lead to other forms of engagement between them and the UK in the future, such as study exchanges for UK students and research collaborations.”
Chief Executive of Universities UK, Nicola Dandridge, said she was encouraged by the visits and promotion of the UK’s further education sector: “There are a number of exciting higher education initiatives underway to increase links between countries in Latin American and the UK.”
“It highlights the importance of international students to the UK and provides another opportunity to repeat the message that there is no cap on the number of genuine university students who can study here.”
“We welcome many students from around the world, and a growing number from Latin America. The UK remains second only to the United States in terms of the strength of its university system and we attract more overseas students than almost any other country in the world. UK universities have a worldwide reputation for excellence in research and teaching, offering a rich and diverse range of courses.”