Thursday 25 September 2014


One in ten current world leaders have studied in the UK, British Council research has revealed.

New British Council analysis has found that of world leaders (Prime Minister or Head of State) who have studied at universities abroad, the proportion of UK alumni rises even higher to 34 per cent - a close second to those who've studied in the USA 38 per cent.  But when measured as a proportion of total students in each country, analysis suggests that the UK is ten times more likely to produce a world leader than the USA – UK universities produces one world leader per fifty thousand graduates, whereas the US produces one per five hundred thousand.

Head of Education Professor Rebecca Hughes said "It's a great credit to the UK that our relatively small HE sector has managed to educate one in ten of the current leaders of the world. Having so many Heads of State spend part of their most formative years learning about and being part of UK culture is a fine example of how the UK's higher education sector is a long-term asset, not just locally, but internationally. However, twenty or thirty years ago, when many of these leaders were considering where to study, the competition between countries to attract them wasn't anything like as fierce as it is now.”

The British Council has launched today [Thursday September 25] the Education UK Alumni Awards, as part of a new campaign that seeks to identify and celebrate exceptional achievement of recent alumni from China, India and the USA, three of the biggest sources of international students at UK universities, and inspire the next generation of students to study in the UK. Finalists (announced in 2015) will become part of a new international UK Alumni Award Network, and winners will be invited to the UK to connect with government and industry leaders in a sector of their choice.

Prof Hughes added “"The UK needs to work harder than ever to attract the next generation of world leaders. As higher education internationalises and technology makes new forms of learning ever more accessible, traditional paths to power are changing rapidly. If we want studying in the UK to remain on that path, we must reach out and celebrate our millions of alumni from around the world. The UK sector and government needs to recognise that hosting a student is more than just someone spending a few years living here, it's the start of a life-long relationship."

Bryan Baum, 25, is the co-founder of Prizeo and, companies that raise millions of dollars for charity through micro-donations, partnerships with celebrities and merchandise. He was named in the 30 Under 30 list of social entrepreneurs by Forbes in 2014, and studied at the University of Oxford in 2009-10. Of his time in the UK, Baum told the British Council: “Coming to Britain to study gave me a global perspective that I didn’t have before. It opened my eyes to what was going on internationally and introduced me to differing viewpoints.”

Asked whether his time in the UK has made a difference to his career, Baum said “It definitely gave me a leg-up. Interacting with Oxford professors in tutorials improved my skills of argument. I had to learn how to think on my feet – and that has helped me as an entrepreneur. I have learned how to defend my case, which is useful in a competitive situation where you are a new start-up in the market. I am ready for problems. I am now running a successful company in California, which I would not have been able to do without the UK experience.”

Other celebrated alumni of the UK include designer Jimmy Choo, actress Parineeti Chopra, former US President Bill Clinton, co-founder of LinkedIn Reid Hoffman, Olympic gold medallist Annette Salmeen, Nobel Prize for Literature winner Wole Soyinka, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi and business magnate Zhang Xin.

Notes to Editor

More information about the Education UK Alumni Campaign is here:

Exclusive interviews with the following UK alumni are available to be published. Please contact Tim Sowula if you are interested:

Social entrepreneur Bryan Baum (USA)

Eventbrite co-founder Kevin Hartz (USA)

Director of Human Resources at JP Morgan Nevin Xiao (China) Fashion designer Chris Liu (China) Tata Group executive Dr. Mukund Rajan (India)

Of 245 leaders surveyed in 2014, British Council analysis found that 27 (11%) had spent time in a UK Higher Education Institution, compared to 29 (12%) who had studied in the USA.

The 26 current world leaders with UK HE experience are: 

•           PM of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne

•           PM of Australia Tony Abbott

•           PM of Bahamas Perry Christie

•           PM of Belgium Elio Di Rupo

•           President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos

•           President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades

•           Queen Margrethe II of Denmark

•           President of Dominica Nicholas Liverpool

•           PM of Finland Alexander Stubb

•           PM of Hungary Viktor Orbán

•           President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson

•           President of Iran Hassan Rouhani

•           President of Ireland Michael Higgins

•           King Abdullah II of Jordan

•           President of Kiribati Anote Tong

•           PM of Malaysia Najib Razak

•           Prince Albert II of Monaco

•           Prime Minister of Namibia Hage Geingob

•           King Harald V of Norway

•           President of Portugal Aníbal Cavaco Silva

•           PM of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong

•           PM of St Lucia Kenny Anthony

•           President of Syria Bashar al Assad

•           King Tupou VI of Tonga

•           PM of Tuvalu Enele Sopoaga

•           President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe

Isolating the 85 Heads of State with experience of some international HE study, the ratio rises to 31% with experience of the UK, compared to 35% experience in the USA.

When factoring in that the average age of Heads of State is 55, measured against the total number of students in a country in 1990 (data from Euromonitor), for the UK, 26 current world leaders from 1.18 million students in 1990. 0.002% for UK, or 2 in 100,000.

For the USA, 29 current world leaders from 13.5 million students in 1990. 0.0002% for USA, or 2 in 1,000,000.

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 7,000 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 publically-funded grant provides less than 25 per cent of our turnover which was £781m in 2012/13. 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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