Thursday 08 December 2011

Three out of four business chiefs fear that the UK will be left behind by emerging countries unless young people learn to think more globally, according to an ICM business poll released today.

Another new report showed that less than half of the students polled by YouGov (48 percent) thought that an international outlook benefits their work prospects. The research, commissioned by the British Council and Think Global, was launched at the British Council in London at an event addressed by the Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Key findings from Next Generation: UK research with students:

  • While almost two-thirds felt they had an ‘international outlook’, students failed to see the potential career advantages to be gained from international experiences, rating the aspects that might help their future employment prospects behind other benefits like making new friends, culture or altruism.
  • Only 18 percent of young people said they had done, or definitely planned to work, study or volunteer abroad, despite almost nine out of 10 saying that such experiences were a great opportunity.
  • When students who had enjoyed international experience were asked what they felt they had gained, only 12% listed ‘work contacts for future employment’.
  • Furthermore, Arts students were more than twice as likely to report involvement in international activity than Science students, and only a third of science, technology and engineering students felt that having an international outlook was important for their subject.

Key findings from The Global Skills Gap research with business leaders:

  • Three-quarters (74%) of the 500 business leaders polled worried that young people's horizons are not broad enough to operate in a globalised and multicultural economy. Employers agreed that: “Unless we better support schools to teach young people to think more globally, the UK is in danger of being left behind by emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil”.
  • 93% of businesses think it is important for schools to help young people develop the ability to think globally. 80% think schools should do more, only 2% think they should do less.
  • In recruiting new employees, more employers (79%) say knowledge and awareness of the wider world is important than those who say the following are important: degree subject and classification(74%), A-level results (68%), or A-level subjects (63%).

Dr Jo Beall, British Council director of Education and Society, said “This research shows that while British students are extremely keen to gain international experiences, there aren’t enough of the right opportunities for them to gain the professional skills that British employers really value. There are great examples of good practice from UK universities where young people can gain professional skills overseas. We would like to work with British business and education sectors to expand these opportunities and develop more. Otherwise the UK economy risks losing global competitiveness.”

Roger Clarke, Chair of Think Global, said “UK businesses urgently need people with an understanding of the wider world. Yet even those students lucky enough to go University still have a large gap in their awareness. It is crucial that we help children to start thinking globally during their school years. The report Global Skills Gap sets out some of the proven ways to help young people to think globally and broaden their horizons; scaling these up offer significant rewards for young people themselves as well as the UK economy.”


Notes to Editor

About the two reports
'Next Generation: UK' research This report explores the opportunities and challenges, motivations and barriers of UK undergraduates regarding international engagement. The research conducted by YouGov incorporates a literature review, four focus groups and a 1,000 person survey of UK undergraduates at UK universities. It was completed in April and May 2011. Commissioned by the British Council, it explores what students think about global issues such as increased labour and student mobility, changing cultural identity and shifts in the geo-political and economic balance between countries. 

'The Global Skills Gap' report This report presents the findings of a survey of senior business leaders conducted by ICM Research on behalf of the education charity Think Global and the British Council to gauge the extent to which business leaders see global thinking as an important skill amongst employees and potential recruits. ICM interviewed a sample of 500 senior executives (including CEOs, MDs, board level directors, partners, owners and senior managers) of businesses in the UK with at least 10 employees. Interviews were conducted between 15th and 26th September 2011 through ICM’s Business Vista online panel, whose makeup broadly represents the composition of businesses around the UK. 

About the British Council
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide. We work in over 100 countries in the arts, education and English and in 2010/11 we engaged face to face with 30 million people and reached 578 million. We have 6,800 staff worldwide. Our total turnover in 2010/11 was £693 million, of which our grant-in-aid from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was £190 million. The remainder was generated through trading activities such as English language teaching. For every £1 of taxpayer money invested we earn £2.65 in additional income. For more information, please visit:

About Think Global
Think Global is a membership based charity working to educate and engage the UK public on global issues. It works with schools, NGOs, the private sector and others to help people learn about global issues such as poverty, cultural relations and sustainability and find out how they can play a role.