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Higher Education and Research Bill - Committee (6th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:45 pm on 25th January 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Brown of Cambridge Baroness Brown of Cambridge Crossbench 7:45 pm, 25th January 2017

My Lords, we have heard about the importance of international students in the context of soft power and global Britain. I want to talk about the importance of international students from my perspective as an engineer. They are crucial to the delivery of our industrial strategy and of the UK being able to develop the STEM skills that it will need to deliver that strategy.

When I was principal of the engineering faculty at Imperial College, many of my engineering courses had more than 50% overseas students. Those students were not taking the places of UK students; they were providing the additional fee income that enabled Imperial College to provide the outstanding facilities to train UK students in key engineering disciplines. Some of those courses would not have been sustainable without the income from our overseas students. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has highlighted to us a number of times that universities use the additional funding that they now get for arts students in order to subsidise the high-cost subjects.

An outstanding institution such as Cranfield, for example, relies on overseas students to run the wide range of industry-focused Masters programmes that are of huge benefit to UK industry. Again, those programmes would not be sustainable without the higher levels of overseas student fees that they can charge. These overseas students are critical to enabling us to maintain the quality of engineering education in our universities that will enable us to ensure that UK students can develop the STEM skills that we will need in future.