Record numbers of diplomats representing more than 80 missions flocked to BPP University for a day of debate and discussion at the Embassy Education Conference – the final conference before the 2015 elections.
Outgoing Universities Minister David Willetts explained his department’s International Strategy for Higher Education, while Nicola Dandridge, the Chief Executive of Universities UK, looked to the main debates that would surround higher education in the upcoming campaigns and outlined the sector’s priorities for a future incoming government.
Attendance at the conference was further boosted by news of the latest measures to curb student visa abuse. Home Office Director of Immigration Policy John Thompson was on hand to take questions from concerned consuls and education attachés and to explain that the Home Office’s actions were aimed at protecting genuine students and maintaining high standards. Delegates also heard from UKCISA chief executive Dominic Scott about the detrimental impact these measures could have on students and privately funded colleges and universities.
Examining the opportunities and challenges of globalising education were hot topics in themed and regional discussion groups. Diplomats could find out more about the benefits and drawbacks of trans-national education from Professor Christopher Costigan (BPP University), while Anne Marie Graham (HE International Unit) explained UK’s drive to encourage more UK students to study overseas in outward student mobility programmes. Simon Nelson of Futurelearn, the UK’s major provider of MOOCs (massive open online courses) outlined the potential of this medium of education.
The day ended with a networking reception where diplomats were able to put forward their suggestions to create a brandnew Education network in London.