WELCOME FROM UK UNIVERSITIES: Staff members from the University of Bradford answer questions from students at an higher education exhibition in Qingdao City, Shandong Province (LI ZIHENG)
The United Kingdom is among the world leaders in recruiting international students. Joanna Burke, Cultural Counselor in the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy in China, recently spoke about international students, especially Chinese students in the United Kingdom, with Beijing Review reporter Wang Hairong.
Beijing Review: The United Kingdom has many top universities in the world. Could you please tell us how many international students are enrolled in UK institutes of higher learning and how many are from China?
Joanna Burke: According to the latest official statistics, which give data for 2008-09, there are over 415,000 international students enrolled in UK higher education institutions (EU and non-EU students). Of these, there are over 60,000 Chinese students enrolled in UK higher education institutions. Chinese students represent the largest number of international students in the United Kingdom—around 14 percent. Chinese students include those students from China's mainland and Hong Kong.
In addition, there are now more opportunities available locally to access UK qualifications (transnational education). There are many joint programs between UK universities and Chinese mainland/Hong Kong institutions. UK education is becoming even more convenient and accessible for Chinese students. There are more than 37,000 Chinese students studying for their UK qualifications in higher education through the transnational education mode.
What have international students contributed to the UK education system and economy?
International students, including Chinese students, enrich UK culture, provide a valuable international dimension to our education institutions and add value to the global study environment. This is a two-way process. UK students will also gain and learn from the multi-culture brought by international students. In addition, Chinese students are amongst the top academic performers and contribute greatly to scholarly exchange and academic research and development within the UK education industry.
International students contribute immeasurably to the intellectual vitality of UK education, making a critical contribution to UK research capacity and standing in the globalized knowledge economy. They form 14 percent of the full-time student population in the United Kingdom and 43 percent at research postgraduate level.
If their time spent studying in the United Kingdom is a positive experience, these students will forge deep and lasting links between their home countries and the United Kingdom and, indeed, our own students benefit from increased opportunities for cultural exchange.
What role do you think international students play in enhancing the mutual understanding between China and the United Kingdom?
International students enrich UK society in many ways by deepening our awareness and understanding of other cultures, and likewise deepening others' awareness and understanding of our own. The relationships that we develop can last forever and often provide the potential for greater educational, cultural and scientific exchange, as well as greater trade, investment and political cooperation.
The UK alumni in China are the bedrock of our relationship with China. They bridge cultural gaps and are ambassadors who can promote effective cultural relations between the United Kingdom and China. This leads not only to economic benefits but cultural openness to deliver greater prosperity, opportunity and security as well as mutual respect and understanding between the United Kingdom and China.