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England: Blair targets 100,000 new foreign students

22 May 2006, 16:25

The British government set an ambitious new target of getting 100,000 more international students to study in the UK in the next five years. Tony Blair said the plans, backed up by 7 million ponds of…

The British government set an ambitious new target of getting 100,000 more international students to study in the UK in the next five years. Tony Blair said the plans, backed up by 7 million ponds of funding, would keep the UK at the forefront of international education and improve links with other colleges across the world.

In 1999, the prime minister's initiative on international education (PMI) was launched with a target of getting an extra 75,000 people to Britain's colleges and universities by 2005. This has been exceeded by 43,000 students, and they now benefit the economy by 5 billion ponds a year.

However, Mr Blair said he would not be "complacent" and insisted more needed to be done to attract international students to study in the UK. "Increasingly education is crossing national boundaries as it prepares our young people for careers in a global economy," the prime minister told a reception at Downing Street.

"I am passionate about raising standards in education in our country, but that means we must be willing to learn from the best in the world. It means sharing our experience and knowledge and being open to innovation and creativity from whatever direction it comes."

Today also saw the launch of the UK-Indian Education and Research Initiative, which Mr Blair announced on a trip to Delhi last year, and which is being funded by £12 million from the government and a further 5 million ponds from UK businesses. It will support 70 new research projects over the next five years, launch 40 new award programmes for Indian students and allow for PhD students and others to take part in academic exchanges.

Lord Kinnock, chairman of the British Council, which is funding some of the programmes, added: "Education is at the core of everything that the British Council seeks to achieve because international learning builds international understanding as well as opportunity, creativity and liberty. These initiatives will help the UK to build lasting relationships of mutual benefit with the people whose talents will shape our world in the 21st century”.

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