UK HE must widen access to int’l experiences says former Universities minister

In a PIE Chat interview, Jo Johnson – brother of prime minister Boris Johnson – said that opportunities are restricted to those who can access financial aid or can self-fund overseas studies.

“I was lucky in that I got financial support to study in Brussels. I won a scholarship which paid for the fees and living costs,” he said.

“And then at INSEAD, my then employer paid for my tuition. So I was in a fortunate position.”

However, Johnson continued, “not everybody is going to have access to that sort of support, and the sector must “think hard about” these issues in order to be truly sustainable.

Online and distance learning can broaden access and widen participation, he added, while suggesting that “hybrid experiences” mixing in-person and digital experiences will become more common in the future.

The UK’s new Office for Talent will “undoubtedly be looking very carefully” at how the country can attract international students, Johnson noted.

The country’s aid budget can also be used to provide students with skills acquired in the UK that will go on to benefit their home countries.

With the reintroduction of the post-study work option for overseas students from the next academic year, Johnson said expects to see “strong growth resume” beyond the coronavirus, and it should be welcome that the UK has set targets to host more international students, “even if that target [600,000 by 2035] could arguably be more ambitious”.

A “deregulated” EU student market as a result of the loss of home-fee status will be an “opportunity for institutions who have most pulling power to recruit more aggressively”, however, the impact will vary for different institutions, he added.

Read the full PIE Chat interview here

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