There is a great deal of hope that the Government’s long-promised international education strategy will move the UK to a better place when it comes to educating people from other countries.
I hope it does.
Few other policy areas have so much positive evidence going for them.
But writing and publishing an international education strategy is not enough. To make a difference, every relevant Government Department needs to be fully committed to supporting and implementing the strategy after it has appeared.
There is, in fact, already an official educational exports strategy. It is six years old, having been published in 2013, but – to the best of my knowledge – has not been rescinded. There is also already a target for educational exports, of £30 billion by 2030, which was made in 2015 but survived the 2017 election. Or at least, after the 2017 election, the Minister for Universities and Science said, ‘the Department for Education remains committed to working with the rest of government and the sector to driving progress towards achieving it.’
Hopefully, any new strategy will put rocket boosters under this target and go even further than the 2013 strategy.
But none of this will be worth all that much without a clear commitment from Whitehall as a whole. Signing the strategy off will not be enough. Only when Home Office Ministers and others outside the Education Department regularly and spontaneously talk about the forthcoming strategy will we know it is properly embedded in policy.
And for the strategy to be really successful it needs to be co-owned so that it is not only Education Ministers who are held accountable for success or failure but Ministers in all those Departments whose policies have the power to affect the strategy directly.