Mobility championed by UK ed minister

Published 10/05/2023

The UK’s education secretary gave an impassioned speech about international education and her pride of the UK sector, including the Turing Scheme, during the 2023 Education World Forum.

“Innovation and collaboration are essential for economies at every level and in every corner of the Earth.

“No country has a monopoly on bright ideas so the more we talk to one another, the greater the scope for coming up with solutions,” said Gillian Keegan, secretary of state for education, in a speech at the London event on May 8.

“One of the most fruitful ways of doing this is by encouraging international students,” she added.

Keegan said she is “hugely proud” that the UK welcomes more than 600,000 international students each year. In the 2021/22 academic year, the country’s institutions welcomed a total of 679,970 non-UK students.

“We don’t just want to take excellence from others, we want to share our own too,” continued Keegan.

She nodded to the success of Heriot-Watt’s Dubai campus – the first campus of an overseas university to open in Dubai International Academic City in 2005 – noting that it began with 120 students and now has 4,000.

“International education is popular. It makes us all richer. We all benefit as we build partnerships and lasting bonds. That’s something we value hugely.”

Keegan said she is “delighted” that the Turing Scheme has continued for its third year.

“This year the scheme is unlocking opportunities for more than 38,000 UK students and learners who will gain international experience, developing skills and expertise,” she noted.

She highlighted the opportunities the scheme has given to those traditionally underserved, with 51% of the international placements across 160 countries earmarked for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“The Turing Scheme is truly global in scope, with every country in the world eligible as a destination for UK students, including EU countries.”

Keegan highlighted that the global aspect of the scheme is particularly beneficial to language learners with more countries, cultures and languages within reach for UK participants.

However, some stakeholders have continued to criticise the scheme for its lack of reciprocity and “problematic” funding timeline.

“International mobility is increasing but so is global competitiveness for talent. We are in a global race, not just for talent but for technology. The industries of the future, whether AI, quantum computing, green technology or life sciences, rely not just on having talent in our own countries but on deep and lasting partnerships,” the minister said.

The theme of this year’s forum was ‘New Beginnings: Nurturing Learning Culture, Building Resilience, Promoting Sustainability. Stronger, Bolder, Better Education by Design’ and inspired many remarks about the growing potential of technology’s support for education’s core aims, including those from Keegan about AI used in education settings.

“I know in some countries there is a knee-jerk reaction to AI. It’s going to be the end of mankind as we know it, some cry.”

However, Keegan said that AI is making a difference in schools and universities already and provides far greater scope for “really transformative change”.

The Department for Education recently published a policy paper, outlining its position on generative AI in education.

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