British Council Chief Executive, Martin Davidson CMG, hosted an event at the UK-China Business Summit in Beijing for the launch of the ‘Generation UK CEO Initiative’ and signing of a number of UK-China education partnership agreements. The ‘Generation UK & Celebrating UK-China Education Partnerships’ event brought together a mixed audience of education and business leaders to celebrate several initiatives further supporting student mobility and educational exchanges between the UK and China.
The Generation UK CEO Initiative was launched to gain the help and support of businesses in the UK and China to further expand the number of opportunities available for students through the British Council’s Generation UK campaign. Generation UK was launched in June this year with support from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and aims to see at least 15,000 UK students participate in academic study or work experience programmes in China over the next 3 years.
The event invited a number of speaker’s from Prime Minister David Cameron’s business delegation including John Cridland, Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry, who gave a speech to drum up support for UK businesses to invest in the initiative. He was joined by Patrick Horgan, Regional Director (North-East Asia) Rolls Royce and Karren Brady, Vice-Chairman of West Ham Football Club, who both emphasised the importance of businesses investing in the skills development of young people.
While there are currently over 100,000 mainland Chinese students in the UK, in comparison only around 4,200 UK students are currently studying in China. Generation UK is boosting the number of opportunities for young people of the UK to engage with China - through academic scholarships and funded business internships.
The government believes it is fundamentally important that more young people from the UK have opportunities to gain greater exposure to, and understanding of China, putting them in a more competitive position in the job market internationally, but also in the UK with the growing trend of inward investment from China.
Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said, “These new partnerships are exciting for the UK, for China, and for all students who will have the chance to experience different cultures while they learn. We want to give more students the opportunities to go abroad, which is why we are supporting this initiative. Britain needs more graduates with an international outlook that makes them more attractive to potential employers and benefits the wider economy. I am pleased that we are strengthening our relationship with China, and building on the UK's position as the education partner of choice”.
The CEO initiative launch was followed by several agreement signings witnessed by Lord Livingston, Minister for Trade and Investment. Zhongtai Trust Company Limited signed the first corporate sponsorship agreement for Generation UK, pledging its support for the campaign. The Chinese trust company has agreed to sponsor 200 return flight tickets from the UK to China for students participating in Generation UK programmes. Education partnership agreements between the Open University, University of Nottingham, Guinness World Records and their respective Chinese partners were also signed at the event.
British Council Chief Executive Martin Davidson said, “Education collaboration between the UK and China is better than ever, with unprecedented levels of education and cultural exchange between our two countries. Not only do we want to see more partnerships between universities in the UK and China, we want more of our young people experiencing the richness of each other’s cultures. Generation UK gives young people in the UK the opportunity to really understand and be part of the vibrant economy in China.”
The UK is a key partner for China in education, with partnerships in higher education quality assessment and leadership, strong demand for collaboration and engagement with industry, research and innovation. Internationalisation is very much at the top of China’s agenda and Chinese higher education institutions have now starting to invest in universities in the UK. At present, the UK is China’s number one transnational education (TNE) partner for joint programmes and Chinese students make up the largest overseas student body in the UK.