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Universities open to the world

Read the report

In this report, former universities minister Jo Johnson outlines how government can help the UK higher education sector overcome the twin shocks of Covid-19 and Brexit.

Published by the Policy Institute and the Harvard Kennedy School, the report makes the following recommendations:


  1. Set a clear ambition to retain global leadership in international education: Recommit to existing 2030 exports targets and create an additional goal for the UK to be the number one study destination worldwide after the US.

  2. Send a clear signal that Global Britain is open and welcome, with a best-in-class student visa offer: The government should turbocharge the competitiveness of the UK visa offer, with the doubling of post-study work visas (Graduate Immigration Route) from 2 to 4 years.

  3. Double student numbers from India by 2024: The UK should capitalise on the post-study work visa change and seek to rebalance the mix of international students coming to the UK. It should launch a new marketing drive in India and include India, alongside China, in the low-risk country category.

  4. Re-focus the British Council on education promotion: It should:
    • establish and operate a world-class global student mobility network to replace UK participation in Erasmus;
    • create and manage a worldwide StudyUK alumni network;
    • and negotiate reciprocal recognition agreements with governments which don’t currently recognise degrees with significant elements of online learning.

  5. End the hostile bureaucracy: The Home Office needs to step back, increase flexibility on English proficiency testing and Tier 4 visa issuance and hold universities to account for any non-compliance.

  6. Prepare continuity arrangements in light of Covid-19: HMG should mitigate the effect of international travel restrictions for international students.

  7. Put liberalisation of trade in education at the heart of FTAs: Make education exports central to the UK’s post-Brexit trade strategy, so that the UK government prioritises liberalisation of trade and cooperation in research and education in each of its prospective FTAs.

  8. Increase transparency in progress towards the targets: Require the International Education Champion to report progress to Parliament annually.