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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 August 2007, 23:08 GMT 00:08 UK
MPs urge foreign university links
View of Nottingham campus
Two UK universities have set up campuses in China
MPs are telling universities in the UK they need to collaborate more with others overseas if they are to continue to attract foreign students.

The Commons education select committee said the key to continued success was to maintain high standards.

But they could lose their appeal to students from India and China as their own higher education systems grow.

It also said the government and private sector should fund prestigious scholarships and fellowships.

The committee said foreign students brought some 4m a year into the UK in tuition fees and spending while studying here.

About half as much again came from those who chose to stay on to work.


But it said there was growing competition from those students' home countries and from other nations in Europe.

It noted existing efforts to develop projects with India and recommended similar approaches be made to China.

The committee's report quotes Professor Lan Xue of Tsinghua University in China as having told it that UK universities had been aiming largely at attracting students to the UK rather than developing collaborative programmes.

"The UK was not in the top five of countries whose [higher education] institutions were involved in joint programmes with Chinese universities."

Committee chairman Barry Sheerman said such collaborations were vitally important.

"It is clear that they bring significant educational, cultural and economic benefits to universities and to the country more generally.

"International relationships in higher education need to be sustainable, and time spent now in building links will reap rich rewards in the long term."

This had to be a two-way thing, the report said, with more British students being encouraged to study at least part of their courses overseas.


The chief executive of vice-chancellors' group Universities UK, Diana Warwick, said universities were already involved in a number of long-standing international partnerships.

"We're pleased with the report's findings that increased internationalisation of higher education potentially brings great benefits, both economic and otherwise, for the UK and its universities.

"There is no question of the recruitment of international students being driven by short-term gains in fee income.

"While universities may benefit economically, this group of students is critical to our continued success in world-class teaching and research."

The MPs' report also touches on the fees paid by part-time students.

It said the distinction between full-time and part-time students for fee and income support was "so blurred as to be no longer sustainable".

Calling for an urgent review it said students should be seen as one group with a variety of needs rather than being "arbitrarily divided".

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