I have a problem with the brightest and best argument about international higher education participation. It’s easy to argue that higher education is an important part of some people’s journey to elite roles; Presidents, Nobel Prize winners, CEOs of global companies etc. We use that argument to defend student funding or student immigration polices, but I don’t think it helps…
The Government want to ensure we do our best to attract the best and the brightest internationally, which is why we recently published our international education strategy. I want to ensure we do not just attract global talent from the EU..Chris Skidmore Hansard 29 April 2019
With the prospect of longer post-study periods for international students or the level of EU fees, the debate has retreated back to this notion. We want the best to come here. No doubt this is important; we need the brightest people here (and not somewhere else) but we also need to focus on a much wider group of people. No doubt there is much soft power in educating a world leader, perhaps vital in diplomatic engagement, but what about the soft power of thousands of students doing graduate level jobs in countries across the world?
Imagine the soft power that puts a British-educated graduate in the procurement team of major companies across the world, or in the human resources or accounting departments? What if we train the event managers or hotel managers, the building surveyors or product designers? We’ve made training teachers from overseas complex, but we still enhance the skills of those to teach our global language. Not only do we have the soft power of all those graduates and their skills, they bring our approaches, our standards, and, our values (hopefully we’re proud of all of those).
Why are we seemingly dismissive of these graduate roles? It’s a familiar problem; we’ve decided on a Golgafrinchan* approach to who should benefit from higher education. Clearly the leaders (the thinkers) should get it, and, similarly, clearly the workers (the doers) shouldn’t (in this crass example) . But what about the people in the middle – those people the Golgafrinchans put on an Ark and sent into space?
As someone in ‘middle management’ who might be put on that ark, I feel this keenly. We need to have an inclusive argument for educating people, people who might not be world leaders, or who might get an education at one of the universities that’s not one of the ‘Four out of the top 10 universities’ in the world. More Means Better for international students too.
*As described by Douglas Adams