UK Sets the Pace in Global Education
The UK has long been recognized as a wise choice for overseas students wishing to receive a top-class higher education, and this trend has accelerated in recent years. In 1980 the country was only the sixth most popular global destination for higher education; now it stands second only to America. 104,000 foreign undergraduates from 230 countries are currently enrolled on UK degree courses, with the number of foreign students in total exceeding 400,000.
Why Is Studying in the UK so Popular?
Several compelling factors are likely to influence students’ choice of the UK. The first is the sheer weight of tradition and excellence embodied by its educational establishments, and within its legal and institutional system in general. Home to Oxford and Cambridge, two of the world’s oldest universities, as well as to internationally-respected institutions such as the BBC, the country is a brand unique in the world, representing democratic transparency, honourable practice and the rule of Law.
A degree or other qualification from a UK college is backed by a centuries-old Accreditation and Quality Assurance framework which ensures rigorous standards are kept across the sector and is as a consequence trusted by both employers and academic bodies across the globe. As a 2009 British Council report concluded: ‘the current UK system for assuring quality and standards is long-established – indeed, it has influenced parallel developments worldwide’.
The UK represents both modernity and tradition. As well as being an acknowledged trendsetter in the worlds of music, fashion and youth culture, the UK higher education sector produces cutting-edge research and development which has seen the country’s academics scoop more no fewer than 39 Nobel Prizes in the last 50 years – an achievement which dwarfs those of similar-sized European nations. There have been 68 UK-born Nobel laureates in the categories of chemistry, physics and medicine since 1901, more than from any country except the United States.
According to a Facebook poll run by the Brighton School of Business and Management in January 2012, students tended to agree that the UK education system was “the best in the world”, coupled with offering “the best place to experience student life”.
The Importance of The English Language
A further key attraction, of course, is the position of English as the world’s business language, and increasingly the de facto lingua franca of social media and the Internet in general. The language is richer in content than others, thanks in part to the multiracial nature of the UK population; as a result, English is thought to contain more words than any other language. UK-English speakers are seen by many as the true ‘language owners’, possessors of the most correct and sophisticated pure form of the language, as well as its most ancient and rich idioms. With world-famous institutions such as the British Library and Oxford’s Bodleian Library, Britons are seen as the guardians of the world’s language.
English Education – A Leader at Home and Abroad
This combination of tradition, culture and language alongside guaranteed quality and standards in the education sector has proven a potent driver of inward migration. In politics, business, science and the arts, the minds and the talents of many of the brightest and best across the world have been shaped by their association with the UK education system. Even a short period within this domain of excellence is likely to bring benefits. In 2003, a study conducted by the School of European Studies and the Sussex Centre for
Migration Research investigated attitudes among students who had benefitted from a year abroad in the UK. 56% had found employment in a professional role such as doctor, manager, director or teacher after their studies.
UK Education: Available From Outside the UK
David Willets, the UK Minister of State for Universities and Science, asserts that higher education in the UK is ‘going global fast’. The growth in popularity of distance learning courses, in addition to overseas campuses and partnerships with foreign universities, means that so-called ‘offshore students’ benefitting from this ‘transnational education’ now outnumber those studying within the country itself.
The UK is not merely the most popular study choice for students within its own borders; this popularity means that it reaches out to students from all over the world. As the academic world is evolving and becoming more connected at all levels, students are increasingly able to take advantage of the chance to study in the UK and collaborate with others – without leaving home.
The speed of information exchange, as well as the development of online learning environments such as Moodle, mean that learning is increasingly being delivered away from the traditional classroom setting, a trend that is guaranteed to accelerate. Students on distance learning programmes have constant and close contact with tutors in a variety of media: email, webinars, video and PowerPoint content are all accessed instantaneously. And such students of course also get the benefits of UK tuition without suffering the high
costs of living and visa restrictions that can cause problems for those physically moving to the UK to study.
UK Education Going Forward
Last year a report by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills put the number of those studying wholly or mainly overseas for an award from a UK Higher Education Institution at 408,685, a number that is sure to have climbed since. William Lawton, policy adviser at the UK Higher Education International Unit, the body established to promote the sector’s global operations, describes UK education providers as ‘pre-eminent’ providers in the field.
Contributing an estimated £59 billion to the UK economy, the education sector is a bona fide success story that is taking its message of innovation, quality and professionalism across the world. Its range of world- class educational providers, coupled with technical innovation and rock-solid qualifications will stand it in good stead now and in the future.