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Going Global 2015

2 June 2015

On 1 June I attended Going Global 2015, which is the British Council’s high-profile annual conference, attracting higher education delegates from all over the world. I spoke myself at a session on how UK universities can maintain their values while internationalizing, essentially saying that just as at home, we must always keep our charitable object (the creation and dissemination of knowledge for the benefit of all) at the forefront. If we do that both at home and abroad – whilst being highly aware of any particular ethical challenges that international work might entail – we will indeed succeed as a global university. I also took part in meetings with delegations from Iran, India and Indonesia which indicated a real interest in engaging with the UK on their part despite in some cases quite formidable political obstacles. A highlight was the first public speech from the new Minister for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson. Anybody expecting (rather unfairly of course) parallels with his brother Boris would have been disappointed, because his delivery was rather flat and for the most part clearly read from a script prepared by civil servants. The most confident ministers will put their own stamp on a speech and to be fair it was personalized to a degree. Mr Johnson explained his commitment to study abroad by reminding us that he had studied for postgraduate qualifications in Brussels and Paris, and this, coupled with the time he subsequently spent working in Europe, augurs well for our campaign to keep Britain in the EU. He was also for a period The Times newspaper’s New Delhi correspondent, and I understand that he means to make India the destination of his first ministerial trip abroad this autumn. Like many universities we at Cardiff are very keen to build our relationships there and so this commitment too is welcome. Otherwise there were no great surprises or new policies. No announcement was made about the ring fence for research funding that has been in place since 2010, or of the new government’s stance on home fees. The Minister did not mention net migration but repeated the existing line that the brightest and best will be welcomed and that there is no cap on student visas. The government apparently intends to maintain its aim of increasing education export income from £18bn to £30bn by 2020, but there was nothing on the apparent contradiction between this and some elements of the government’s policy on visas as implemented by the Home Office. He did announce that there would be an expansion of the Chevening scholarship scheme which is good news. So a mixed bag in all; but it’s good to have a Minister for Universities and Science who understands the importance of Europe (and of study abroad), is an internationalist and has the ear of the Prime Minister, having been at the heart of policy formation in number 10. We’ll see how it pans out but this is a thoughtful appointment for which I think we can be grateful.