International Education Strategy

Matthew Hancock speaks at the Association of Colleges International Conference on the International Education Strategy.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP

Good afternoon, everyone.

Introduction – 1 year on

It’s almost a year since the government published its International Education Strategy. Today I’d like to reflect on the progress we are making and, looking ahead, to think about some of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead – for all of us.

Why is having an International Education Strategy so important? Because our economic growth and our country’s reputation around the world depend on how well we educate and train our people.

Globalisation is not just about finance and factories it means the free flow of people and knowledge too.

Many emerging economies face major challenges in ensuring that everyone can enjoy the benefits of education, meeting the scale of demand, managing the cost of education, improving accessibility, ensuring quality is high and keeping pace with changing demand for skills.

That’s why we have created an International Education Strategy within our overall industrial strategy – making a commitment to strong education partnerships across the world, both commercially and diplomatically. That’s certainly what I have found in my travels in this job to places such as the USA, India and the Middle East.

UKTI Education

I know that Emily Ashwell, Managing Director of UKTI Education is also here today and has talked to you about the important work that her team is doing – the most significant achievement so far is that UKTI Education has already met its ambition to help UK organisations in the education and training sector win £1 billion of overseas business by 2015. Mostly as a result of our FE offer.

We created UKTI Education with the principal aim of helping UK education and training organisations win business overseas – specifically focusing on high value opportunities which are often complex and typically those which benefit from government-to-government engagement.

Given the scale of some these opportunities, success often depends on partnership between UK skills providers. I am particularly proud to say that a significant win has been our successes in the Colleges of Excellence programme in Saudi Arabia. When I visited Saudi in January I saw and heard for myself the country’s appetite for UK educational, technical and vocational training expertise – and I was delighted that this translated into firm contracts - some 40% of the first wave of Colleges of Excellence contracts (worth some £375 million over 5 years) went to UK providers, and again 40% of Wave 2 (worth £1 billion) and we are expecting the next wave of the Colleges of Excellence programme to get underway in the autumn.

I’d encourage all of you who have ambitions to work overseas to get in touch with UKTI.

Thinking internationally

Back in this country, one obvious challenge for us to work together to ensure that strong FE colleges offering quality provision can – just like universities – attract and benefit from international students.

We estimate that education exports generated some £18 billion to our economy in 2012. Clearly, attracting overseas students to the UK is a market in which we excel, thanks to the global reputation of our education.

We welcome genuine international students, and are planning for long term growth – and this is an important message for potential international students and the people that advise them. There is no visa limit on the number of overseas students who are eligible to study here. The recent immigration reforms are designed to cut out the bogus applicants and poor quality private colleges which have damaged the reputation of the sector; they are certainly not designed to undermine legitimate and quality FE colleges.

Of course, international students are not generally thought of by the public as immigrants. During their studies, international students enhance the campus experience of their UK-born colleagues. After graduation and upon returning home, the great majority remain keen supporters of this country, maintaining the kinds of strong links that are good for business, as well as fruitful cultural and political interaction.

But there are other challenges we need to face too. And one of these is training he next generation of workers in British companies with the skills and knowledge they need to help our businesses grow both in this country and abroad.

It’s easy to assume that the rest of the world is always happy to do business in English. But just 6% of the global population speak English as a first language and we need to make sure that more people have the linguistic skills to attract inward investment or export goods and services

Thinking about the way we deliver

And of course, every part of the world of education will be affected by new technology – both in this country and aboard.

Take MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses. They offer more people than ever before access to high-quality training from some of the best teachers in the world, in some of the most prestigious institutions in the world. We recently published some new research into MOOCs in education.

Looking right across compulsory age education, it found that they have a huge amount to offer, particularly for gifted and talented students, low take-up subjects, exam preparation – and, perhaps most important of all, for 16 to19 year olds combining further education with work.

That’s something we’re keen to explore more in the future.

But of course, it’s no use talking about all these exciting, innovative technologies if you can’t access them. And until recently, as many as 80% of colleges were relying on a single broadband connection.

That’s simply not enough. So we’ve introduced new funding to make sure that all colleges can install a second broadband connection, giving you greater resilience and improved speed – along with help to make the most of your existing provision and bandwidth.

Some 73 colleges are being upgraded in the first tranche with more to follow later this year. We’re funnelling funds through Local Enterprise Partnerships, who can then work on the ground with both private providers and FE colleges – supporting innovatory and ambitious proposals wherever they may be.

It’s the sort of change which can make a huge impact – helping the FE sector to deliver higher quality and better resources in the months and years to come. Not only to benefit local communities but also those in the international arena.


Perhaps the most important tools in our kit are the experience and enthusiasm of 2 expert groups – FELTAG, the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group, which reported in March – and ETAG, our new Education Technology Action Group, building on FELTAG’s work.

When I set up FELTAG, I wanted to nudge the FE and Skills sector to become much more digitally aware – to make better use of its resources, and to help us remove obstacles.

I’d like to thank everyone here and across the sector who took the time to contribute to FELTAG. We will be publishing our response soon. But we whilst we can see how far the sector has come - we all know that there’s still much further to go. And this isn’t just about FE – it’s a priority for schools, FE, HE, all government departments, all ages.

That’s why we’ve created ETAG, with a broader, wider focus, looking at the whole education sector as one and ensuring that we use technology as effectively as possible from early years through to adult learning.

It’s never been more important to make the most of every opportunity that technology offers – for providers, schools, colleges, employers, parents, students and teachers alike.

We need to think about how we enable institutions to:

  • learn from the best in the world, and to take advantage of cloud based technology
  • learnto use online learning, and big data, in the most effective ways e.g. in the teaching of English and maths for young unemployed people [in our 18 to 21 pilots]
  • to get full benefit from our growing understanding of how young people learn
  • how we can measure performance – to make sure that the best teaching can be shared and duplicated more widely than ever before

I hope that you are all aware of the International Education Council which is overseeing the implementation of our strategy. Only last week we were presented with a paper developed by experts from across the sector. I have asked that UKTI under Emily Ashwell take the recommendations forward because I believe this is an area that combines 2 of the UK’s great global strengths: Education and Technology. So we should be leading the way and supporting EdTech at home and abroad.”

Broader overseas collaboration

One thing I really admire about colleges and the wider education sector is their passion for learning from each other, sharing experiences and adapting that insight to improve their offer for students.

Not just in the UK but with overseas partners too.

As part of our International Education Strategy, we announced our intention to maximise education export opportunities in the priority markets of Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey and the Gulf.

Let us look at India. The skills challenge in India remains acute. Half of the 1.2 billion population is under 25 and the previous Indian government aimed to train 500m of them by 2022. Progress is slow. Capacity is proving challenging - there are only 4.5 million training places for the 12 million who join the labour market each year.

The UK has a strong interest in helping India meet these challenges and we’re getting involved to offer our expertise and government and providers to strengthen their system in areas such as setting up career advisory services, sector skills councils and qualifications frameworks and welcome UK providers support in delivering training.

When I was in India in January I launched India’s first MOOC for professional skills. Qualt.com brings a series of industry and job-specific, entry-level, free, professional training opportunities to India. This is a smartphone app which combines mobile technology and game playing in an interactive learning environment.

During that trip I also witnessed the opening of the AoC’s new offices in Gurgaon. So I am confident that you are well positioned to take advantage of opportunities there.


Education is arguably one of the UK’s key exports - worth around £18 billion to the UK in 2012 - and a highly respected brand internationally. This attracts international students to UK institutions and qualifications. We must harness the advancements in Educational Technology and more widely capitalise on that to promote our FE and vocational offer.

Thank you.

Published 11 June 2014