Monday 01 June 2015

The British Government will “continue to ensure that our excellent education system remains a magnet for brilliant minds” Jo Johnson, the UK’s new Universities and Science Minister, told 1200 higher education leaders from more than 70 countries gathered in London today.

Johnson was speaking at the British Council’s ‘Going Global’ conference in London, making his first speech since his appointment in May 2015. He announced that “Across all our international education activity, we have an ambition to grow.

“We are committed to increasing education exports from £18bn in 2012 to £30bn by 2020. We will not achieve that goal unless we continue to attract the brightest and best from around the world.” Johnson said.

Johnson admitted concern that there existed for some people a misconception of the UK’s attitude to international students, and the decline of student numbers from countries such as India. “It is a personal aim of mine to overcome misconceptions about the UK in such important countries.” Johnson said.

The new Minister reassured the audience that the UK was “open for business” to all genuine students. “Data tells a good tale. Once here, Indian students’ satisfaction rate is 90%. And most of those say they would recommend their universities to others. We will engage and explain. We will make clear that there is no cap on the number of students who can come to study in the UK and no intention to introduce one. Nor is there any cap on the number of former students who can stay on to work - as long as they have a graduate job.” Johnson said.

The British Council’s Chief Executive, Ciarán Devane, emphasised to the international leaders that openness was the ‘’lifeblood of learning”, and even though it could be a source of discomfort, an open environment was essential for higher education to thrive. 

“It’s only right to recognise that openness can be a source of discomfort for people – a challenge to their sense of continuity and their understanding of the world. But I also think it is incumbent on all of us in the education sector to be clear that openness is the lifeblood of learning. Openness is the foundation for new ideas, it brings frank exchange, strong partnerships and isn’t afraid to champion innovation and new thinking – and in this environment, higher education through learning and research, can thrive” Devane said.

Devane told the delegates that “If there is a ‘global culture’ in any meaningful sense, it has connection, diversity and openness at its core.”

“We acknowledge that all our futures are interwoven, that development and success come from mutual benefit and shared understanding. The best solutions to challenges are those created by pooling resources, finding the links between disciplines, and between different parts of the world sharing expertise and bringing a range of perspectives and experiences to bear on conventional ways of doing things.” Devane added.

The British Council’s Going Global conference for international higher education leaders is streamed live at


Notes to Editor

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About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.

We work in more than 100 countries and our 8,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programmes.

We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publicly-funded grant provides less than 20 per cent of our turnover which last year was £864 million. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally.


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