By Daniel Hunter

An ambitious strategy to expand the UK’s education exports industry — revealed for the first time as worth £17.5 billion to the economy — has been published.

Developed in partnership with the education sector, the International Education Strategy will ensure British schools, universities, colleges and education businesses continue to stay ahead in the global education market — worth almost £3 trillion annually.

It aims to secure an extra £3 billion worth of contracts for the UK’s education providers overseas, and attract almost 90,000 extra overseas university students by 2018.

The strategy will also strengthen education partnerships with other countries, particularly emerging economies, expand the Chevening Scholarship programme which sees future global leaders study in the UK, and encourage more UK students to spend time overseas.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “Overseas students make a huge contribution to Britain. They boost our economy, and enhance our cultural life, which is why there is no cap on the number of legitimate students who can study here.

“Thanks to our world-class universities, our network of UK alumni who are now in positions of influence around the world is impressive, opening doors that would not otherwise be possible. Today’s strategy will help build on this success ensuring we continue to attract international students and promote the UK’s expertise in education.”

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts, said: “There are few sectors of the UK economy with the capacity to grow and generate export earnings as impressive as education.

“Our universities, colleges, awarding organisations and schools are recognised globally for their excellence. However, there is more that we can do to take advantage of this powerful reputation, and to seize the opportunities to stay ahead in the global race.”

To capitalise on education exports, which have grown in value to the UK from £14.1 billion in 2008/09 to £17.5 billion in 2011, the new strategy will:

- Launch the “Education is Great” campaign to promote UK education to students in emerging economies.

- Grow the number of overseas students in UK universities by up to 20 per cent over the next five years — around an extra 90,000 students.

- Appoint Emily Ashwell as the Managing Director of the new UKTI Education UK Unit to help UK business take advantage of high value opportunities overseas — aiming to secure contracts worth £3 billion by 2020.

- Set up a new initiative to encourage UK students to study overseas.

- Appoint Sir Eric Thomas, Vice Chancellor of Bristol University, as the new UK Education Champion to promote the UK education sector overseas and maximise commercial opportunities.

- Support UK companies using innovative education technology, such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

- Double the Department for International Development’s investment in higher education partnerships, which link universities in poorer countries with other successful institutions.

- Expand the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s successful Chevening scholarships, which encourages high-fliers from around the world, some of whom have become heads of state, to study in the UK.

The International Education Strategy follows the recent plans for agriculture, automotive, construction, aerospace and other key sectors to secure sustainable future growth in the economy.

Sir Eric Thomas, the new UK Education Champion, who will also co-chair the new International Education Council alongside David Willetts, said: “Education is arguably one of the UK's key exports and a highly respected brand internationally and so I am honoured to have the opportunity to contribute to its continued growth and increased profile."

John Fallon, chief executive of Pearson, said: “Training minds and teaching people how to learn and to love learning is, of course, of fundamental importance in its own right. Education is also now emerging as a great global growth industry; and improving learning outcomes is now fundamental to any country’s economic growth plan. In the future, educational links will drive global growth and global relationships just as much as links in terms of trade, manufacturing and finance have done in the past.

“The UK's education sector has great brands, great products and a proud history of teaching and learning. Today's education strategy is an important step forward in capitalising on this tremendous opportunity for the UK to play a valuable part in educating millions around the world and transforming their lives for the better.”

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