Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
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80,000 UK students to visit China to boost trade links

Vince Cable urges business leaders to support a drive to double the number of UK exchange students who travel to China. 

Business Secretary Vince Cable will today (27 May 2014) urge business leaders to support a drive to double the number of UK exchange students who travel to China as part of plans to boost trade links.

In a letter to FTSE 100 UK CEOs, the Secretary of State will call upon businesses to support Generation UK, the British Council’s flagship programme, which aims to see 80,000 UK students participate in academic study or work experience programmes in China by 2020.

Currently over 100,000 mainland Chinese students come to the UK every year while only 5,400 UK students studied in China last year (2013).

An independent study for the government has found that the annual cost of language skills deficit to the UK economy is £48 billion.

Vince Cable made the announcement on a visit to Sun Yat Sen University in Guangzhou where he also announced that the Chinese University has signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Warwick and Glasgow Universities to offer student exchanges.

Glasgow University will be welcoming medical student exchanges and Warwick’s student exchanges will be in the areas of systems biology, nursing, digital pathology, and integrated healthcare systems.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

The global centre of gravity is shifting eastwards to major economic powerhouses like China. But while China sends around 100,000 students each year to the UK, we send little more than 5,000 in the opposite direction – and that’s 2 thirds more than we sent in 2010.

By contrast, France sends over 8,000 students to China annually.

We must raise our game. New independent research shows that a lack of language skills in the UK is costing our economy about £48 billion. The shortage of Mandarin speakers is part of the problem. I don’t want young British people to get left behind.

So today, I’ve written to a range of leading UK businesses urging them to get behind the British Council’s Generation UK campaign, which aims to increase the number of UK people studying or undertaking internships in China to 80,000 by 2020.

Participants in this programme will not only boost their own career prospects, but become ambassadors for UK-China relations on their return home.

Carma Elliot, Director of the British Council in China said:

Generation UK creates incredible opportunities and access for young people in the UK to experience life in China’s rapidly growing economy. By coming to China to work or study, UK students develop a global mind-set and gain international experience and skills that will enable them to thrive in a globally competitive labour market.

John Cridland, CBI Director-General said:

I was delighted to have been involved in the British Council’s ‘Generation UK’ programme during the Prime Minister’s China visit last December (2013) and the CBI is pleased to support the British Council’s exciting new ‘CEO Initiative’ which is aimed at building the next generation of British talent through UK-China business partnerships. I hope that our member companies will also get involved in this worthy initiative.

A second MoU was also signed today which will allow The Hartree Technology Facilities Council to use the Guangzhou Super Computer, Tainhe-2.

The Hartree Centre is the UK’s premier supercomputing environment and carries out R&D service to help UK industry and academia develop better products, services, processes and software.

The Tainhe-2 is larger than systems that the Hartree centre has currently and will save them the £100 million cost of building their own system.

Notes to editors

1.The government launched International Education: Global Growth and Prosperity on 29 July 2013 as a strand of its Industrial Strategy programme. Education is the second largest sector globally after healthcare and education exports were worth an estimated £17.5 billion to the UK economy in 2011.

British universities, colleges, awarding organisations, schools and education businesses are recognised globally for their excellence.

2.Our expertise – from governance models and curricular design to professional development and management – is renowned. But other countries also recognise the opportunities of the education sector and are competing for a larger share of the market.

3.The strategy aims to set out for the first time how government and the whole education sector will work together to build on our broad strengths to grow the economy and our wider links with partners around the world. It focuses on both:

  • the direct contribution that exports make to growth through income from education provision and the sale of educational products and services
  • the indirect contribution that comes from the relationships and trust that educational partnerships create, which form the foundation for our political and trading relationships across the world

4.The Generation UK website can be accessed at ‘Generation UK

5.The government’s long-term plan is to build a strong, more competitive economy and a fairer society. Industrial Strategy gives impetus to the plan for growth by providing businesses, investors and the public with clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel.
The first achievements and future priorities of the industrial strategy have been published and can be found here esses-and-future-priorities.

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