Thank you, I am delighted to be here at the Study World conference and let me welcome our guests that have travelled from around the world.
Looking out into the audience today, 2 things are abundantly clear.
Firstly, I am proud to be here amongst like-minded people: all of whom believe that a better world starts with a good education.
Education transcends geography, language and political persuasion; it breaks barriers and creates curiosity.
It brings people together: just like this very audience.
Its importance should not be understated, nor should it be confined solely to syllabi and test scores.
Abraham Lincoln, whose statue is just across the road in Parliament Square, proclaimed that: “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.”
Indeed education opens up minds; but it also breeds more open and more prosperous societies.
It is why oppressive regimes around the world have always sought to stifle or manipulate education for their own agendas.
So, as you network, share ideas and do deals during this conference, I’m sure you’ll also bear in mind the bigger purpose at play.
Secondly, the fact that Study World has attracted such a global audience to the UK is no coincidence.
You’re here because of the reputation of the British schooling system – one of rigour, exacting standards and worldwide recognition.
UK providers have a long history of working with overseas partners to deliver excellent education services in schools from the Middle East and Far East, to Latin America and beyond.
So today, my message is simple. The demand for British expertise is out there, and is growing.
And I am more confident than ever that UK providers will seize this demand, giving classrooms around the world a distinctive British flavour.
There are 3 ways which we will do this.
First, we will build on the UK’s already impressive capability in overseas education provision.
In 2014, total UK education related exports had climbed 18% in 4 years, rising to over £18 billion.
Our K-12 curriculum is the most popular globally; thousands of international schools are based on the British model, and 25,000 students attend over 40 UK overseas schools.
One fantastic example is Wycombe Abbey – a leading co-ed boarding school in Changzhou – which has plans to open 5 sister campuses across China over the next 5 years.
Even our universities, 3 of which rank in the world’s top 10, have always had a global outlook.
39 UK universities have established campuses overseas and nearly 700,000 students were enrolled on UK Higher Education degrees outside the UK in 2015.
All but 15 of the world’s countries receive some sort of transnational education services from UK universities.
And these universities are not complacent – 80% plan to increase their overseas footprint.
The University of Birmingham, for example, will be the first global top 100 university to open a campus in Dubai.
I urge more to follow suit and think global.
Some attribute the success of the British educational model due to the so-called ‘Harry Potter effect’.
Traditions such as the House System and an emphasis on extra-curricular activities, particularly sports – though perhaps not so much Quidditch – are all becoming features of overseas schooling.
But there are other reasons too.
Our reputation is underpinned by Ofsted and other inspectorates who drive higher standards in teaching, learning, leadership, and governance.
It also follows that as English is the international language of business, schools where English is the pillar for all means of teaching and learning will always be popular.
In this vein, Bell English has been doing some great work with Brazilian and Mexican universities, to ensure their English language provision is of an international standard.
UK degrees are not only recognised by global employers, they are also subjected to rigorous scrutiny and evaluation – thus increasing their value in the global marketplace, leading to more job-ready graduates.
This is what sets the UK apart, and is why we are in pole position to seize a growing demand for transnational education.
The number of students around the globe enrolled in higher education is forecast to more than double to 262 million by 2025.
Nearly all of this growth will be in the developing world, with more than half in China and India alone.
Add to this the fact that many countries have large school leaver populations without sufficient higher education infrastructure to meet demand.
This is where British exporters can step in.
We know the demand is out there; and now so is the support, which brings me onto my second point.
For the first time in years, the UK has a dedicated trade department to help UK education providers access new markets more simply and quickly than ever before.
The Department for International Trade has a full complement of specialists, covering all 5 main education subsectors.
That includes higher education, K-12 schools, English language training, technical and vocational training, and educational technology.
We have already identified opportunities in some of the fasting growing regions of the world, where the demand for UK capability is alive and well, and we want to help you access it.
We will link providers up with one of the world’s largest and most revered diplomatic networks, active in 108 markets around the globe. This network is already helping over 100 UK schools along their international expansion journey.
Our team in the Philippines, for example, has worked with a consortium of UK vocational skills providers to develop technical training programmes for 16,000 local workers, worth £2 million to UK businesses over the next 5 years.
My department’s support is end to end: from initial strategy design right through to the first school bell.
And our world leading digital platform, great.gov.uk, should be the first port of call for any business that wants to be matched up with global buyers; access export opportunities in the education sector; and find information how to break into fast growing markets.
There is, quite simply, an unprecedented level of support for UK providers to help seize the huge opportunity on offer for transnational education.
My final point is on the UK’s future post Brexit and the impact on our education sector.
It isn’t hard to imagine that our children and grandchildren, at some point in their academic life, will be asked an essay question along the lines of…
‘Brexit has ultimately benefited the United Kingdom. Discuss.’
I want those students of the future to be able to positively argue that in Brexit, the UK saw and realised the opportunity to strengthen its economic, diplomatic, security and academic ties with not just Europe, but also the wider world.
As you will know, Brexit negotiations are underway, and the UK has always been clear that we seek a deep and special partnership with our European neighbours.
We start from a position of zero tariffs and regulatory equivalence; businesses and consumers across the continent want that to continue.
I think we should listen to them.
Leaving the EU doesn’t make us less European, nor does it undermine the shared values across the continent.
No referendum can change that.
But we also want to open up to the wider world in a way we have not been able to for the past 40 years.
After all, 90% of future global growth is set to occur beyond the borders of Europe.
Education is one of the global industries and if the UK is going to be a leader in this field, we too must be global in our outlook.
That means we will still look to be magnet for the international talent that sustains our universities and schools.
We will still appreciate the often unquantifiable, yet no less invaluable, benefits of establishing lifelong global networks of alumni around the world, for whom the UK will be always inextricably linked to some of the best years of their lives.
And we will draw upon our inherent economic strengths to continue attracting billions of investment onto these shores.
These include a science and research base that is envied around the world; a highly skilled workforce fed by some of the world’s best universities; and high levels of political, legal and regulatory stability which attract businesses.
All this gives me confidence that the UK will continue to be a world leader in transnational education well into the future, just as we’ve been in the past.
In that sense, nothing changes.
I mentioned earlier the reach of education beyond classrooms; it is quite simply one of the greatest gifts we can bestow and the most important investment we can make.
Conferences such as Study World allow us to come together to champion the importance of education in creating a more stable, fair and prosperous world.
There’s no greater prize than that.