Call for more British students and graduates to study in China

by Ray Clancy on June 12, 2014

British Secretary of State for Business, Vince Cable, has urged business leaders to support Generation UK, the British Council’s flagship outward student mobility programme.

Launched in June 2013, the programme aims to see 80,000 UK students participate in academic study or work experience programmes in China by 2020.

UK Students

Generation UK hopes to send 80,000 students to China by 2020

In a letter to UK CEOs across a range of leading companies including many FTSE 100 businesses, Cable called upon leaders to support student mobility to China, in order to give British young people the skills and experience they need to excel in a globalised labour market.

‘The global centre of gravity is shifting eastwards to major economic powerhouses like China. But while China sends around 100,000 students each year to the UK, we send little more than 5,000 in the opposite direction and that’s two thirds more than we sent in 2010,’ he said.

‘By contrast, France sends over 8,000 students to China annually. We must raise our game. New independent research shows that a lack of language skills in the UK is costing our economy about £48 billion. The shortage of Mandarin speakers is part of the problem. I don’t want young British people to get left behind,’ he pointed out.

‘I’ve written to a range of leading UK businesses urging them to get behind the British Council’s Generation UK campaign, which aims to increase the number of UK people studying or undertaking internships in China to 80,000 by 2020. Participants in this programme will not only boost their own career prospects, but become ambassadors for UK-China relations on their return home,’ he added.

Around 5,400 UK students studied in China last year. This number has grown by almost 65% since 2010. The UK 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 and with the increasing number of Chinese tourists visiting the UK.

According to the British Council, Generation UK sits at the heart of this, encouraging students to consider China as a destination for study or work by promoting the huge range of academic and professional opportunities available in China.

Generation UK is also directly providing opportunities for UK young people to engage with China through academic scholarships and funding support for internships. This summer alone, it is anticipated that there will be over 200 places for internship and academic study in China directly through Generation UK.

‘Generation UK creates incredible opportunities and access for young people in the UK to experience life in China’s rapidly growing economy. By coming to China to work or study, UK students develop a global mind set and gain international experience and skills that will enable them to thrive in a globally competitive labour market,’ said Carma Elliot, director of the British Council China.

One person who has benefited is Louise Garrett-Evans, a Generation UK scholar currently studying Chinese language at Fudan University in Shanghai.  ‘It is my intention, whilst studying at Fudan University, to continue to explore China and further experience its culture and customs to enhance my awareness of the country in its many guises,’ she said.

‘My main reason for wanting to learn Chinese in China is the opportunity I hope will be created from this experience, such as career prospects and employment opportunities, travel and making new contacts. I’ve always aspired to work internationally and with China’s growing influence, there is tremendous value in learning Chinese. It is my hope to work for an international organisation who will value what I have learned during my time here. The opportunity to continue to speak Chinese in my career is essential to me,’ she added.

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