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UK: Outgoing students and their language competence

Last July, we presented the Higher Education Policy Institute's (HEPI) report on the economic costs and benefits from international students. Following the same line, the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee released a report  that goes deeper into the issue, saying that economic costs and benefits should be a two-way street, and more British students should be encouraged to study at least part of their courses overseas. The committee’s report The future sustainability of the higher education sector: international aspects emphasises that international relationships in higher education need to be sustainable and that increased internationalisation of higher education potentially brings great benefits, both economic and otherwise, for the UK and its universities.

Through this report, UK MPs are telling UK universities that they have been too busy luring in foreign students and have neglected developing collaborative programmes to send their own students abroad. The report warns that UK universities could lose their appeal to students from India and China as their own higher education systems grow.  Considering the rapid growth of strategic university alliances across the board, this may be a timely reminder.

In support of this warning, the University and College Union (UCU) claims that UK students may soon be among the biggest casualties of increased internationalism in higher education. UCU worries that out-going British students may be restricted to English-speaking countries because of the lack of foreign language teaching and interest in the UK.