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CBI urges UK universities to forge closer ties with China

Business leaders are calling for British universities and the government to step up their links with China.

The Confederation of British Industry says the links are very strong already but should be built upon to develop “new trade and investment partnerships through higher education, creating opportunities to tackle the shared challenges of our countries”.

A new report from the CBI and Middlesex University, London, highlights the scale of higher education partnerships between China and the UK. It says there are currently 950 programmes of transnational education in China, “enabling more than 57,000 students in China to study towards UK qualifications each year”. 

Meanwhile, nearly 90,000 students from mainland China study at UK universities – about one in five  of all international students in the UK - according to the report, Bridges to the future: The role of universities in the UK-China relationship.

As China is the most populous country in the world – with about one third of the world’s university students - the potential in terms of HE and trade links is great – and something the government is keen to foster at this pivotal time in international relations.

The report says universities are “a great foundation to build a strengthened UK-China partnership”.

Guy Dru-Drury, CBI Head of China Office, said: “The links between our two countries are extraordinarily diverse and higher education institutions across a wide range of disciplines lie at the heart of this. Now is the time to build on these strong foundations as opportunities open up within China and the UK.

“As more UK universities work with Chinese partners to provide innovative education options for China’s talented and motivated students, business, government and universities all have a part to play to help these partnerships flourish.”

A recent report from The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education said China had overtaken the United Arab Emirates as the country hosting the most (32) international branch campuses. 

The CBI report includes many case studies of partnerships between British and Chinese HE institutions, including those involving Exeter, Lancaster, Nottingham Trent, Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam universities.

Middlesex University, which collaborated on the report, also has strong links with China.  Its vice chancellor, Professor Tim Blackman, said students getting involved with such programmes would “have a life-changing experience that will give them the knowledge and skills they will need for the competitive world of work”.

He added that the CBI initiative showcased higher education as one of Britain’s strongest exports and recognised “the huge contribution British universities can make to Britain, to China and to the world”.