Amendment 33

Trade Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 13th March 2019.

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Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve:

Moved by Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve

33: After Clause 12, insert the following new Clause—“Collection of export information on international education(1) The Office for National Statistics (or anyone acting on their behalf) must collect and publish detailed information on the export earnings from non-UK-domiciled students which should include—(a) fee income,(b) living cost expenditure,(c) research and other similar contracts,(d) education products and services for non-UK-domiciled students,(e) education related travel and tourism services,(f) tourism expenditure by visitors linked to non-UK-domiciled students. (2) For the purposes of subsection (1) non-UK-domiciled students includes all non-UK domiciled students studying in the United Kingdom, including but not limited to—(a) all non-UK-domiciled students studying at education providers on the Tier 4 sponsor list including schools, English language providers, further education colleges, embedded colleges, private providers and universities,(b) all non-UK domiciled students studying on a short-term study visa at a provider with approved accreditation including those on student mobility programmes.(3) Information published for the purposes of subsection (1) must be broken down with regard to—(a) the regions and nations of the United Kingdom,(b) levels of study including school, further education, higher education, and English language provision,(c) subjects which facilitate entry into jobs on the shortage occupation list.(4) Within one month of publication of information under subsection (1), the Secretary of State must publish a target for future export earnings from non-UK-domiciled students which, as a percentage of the global market, must equal or exceed the level reported by the Office for National Statistics.”

Photo of Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve Crossbench

My Lords, in the absence of my noble friends Lord Bilimoria and Lord Hannay, I shall move Amendment 33. This is yet another amendment on trade in the cultural industries, which have become a very important export sector, with the distinctive feature that some of the exports, in particular educational services, bring people to this country rather us sending goods to other countries.

The amendment seeks to improve the statistical basis for estimating the value of overseas students coming to this country. At present, the way it is estimated is not very satisfactory. Statistics are produced by the ONS, which calculated it as £7.2 billion, and by the DfE, which calculated it as £19.9 billion. That is quite a big gap. The aim of the amendment is to improve the statistics, making it easier to set an export target for this sector. There is a clear need for complete and unambiguous information. Although the students do the travelling, the educational services are a valuable export in which this country has an important place. We have targets set, but it does not make very much sense to set targets until one has clarity about the metrics. This amendment is about the metrics and getting the target right. I beg to move.

Photo of The Earl of Kinnoull The Earl of Kinnoull Crossbench

My Lords, I was added as the fourth batsman. I have only one thing to add to the very clear presentation made by my noble friend Lady O’Neill, which is that noble Lords will note paragraph (f) of subsection (1) of the proposed new clause. It would mean that some estimate of the tourism expenditure of visitors to students studying in the UK would be included in the statistical information. This information is being collected in Australia and the Australians have discovered that it is quite a big economic driver. That has led them to feel that they have a jewel in the crown of educational exports, and they are trying to grow it. The more we understand the numbers and statistics of the mighty business we have, the more we would be likely to feed it and help it. I bring that to the House’s attention.

Photo of Lord Fox Lord Fox Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

My Lords, we have heard many times about the soft power of education as it reaches out around the world. This is a way of collecting hard data about the economic benefit to this country. I cannot see why the Government would be unable to support it.

Photo of Viscount Younger of Leckie Viscount Younger of Leckie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the Government welcome international students, who make a valuable contribution to the UK economically and culturally. They bring greater diversity to university and college campuses and an international dimension to the experience of all students. They also stimulate demand for courses and add to the UK’s impressive research capacity. In the longer term, they offer the prospect of productive business, political, cultural and research links. Of course, they also bring welcome income to UK universities and our wider economy.

We are pleased that the UK remains a highly attractive destination for international students. UK higher education institutions hosted almost 460,000 EU and non-EU students in 2017-18, the highest number on record. There remains no limit on the number of students who can study here, and there are no plans to introduce one.

In the Higher Education and Research Act, there is provision for a faster and simpler route for high-quality new providers to enter the sector and gain degree-awarding powers. This allows the sector to diversify and strengthen its international offer, providing even better opportunities to students from all over the world.

The Department for Education currently publishes data on the value of UK education exports annually. These statistics cover education exports and transnational activity relating to higher education, further education, schools, English language training and products and services. I am grateful for the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Fox, the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill. It is important to look at the statistics, and I will start by giving a view of the ones that we already publish. The latest education exports data publication was dated January 2019. It set out that total education exports and transnational education activity were estimated to be worth almost £20 billion in 2016. International students at higher education institutions contributed £11.9 billion in exports through living expenditure and tuition fees alone that year. This accounts for around 60% of the total value of education exports and activity.

The fee income data is compiled by the Higher Education Statistics AgencyHESA—which noble Lords will have heard of, and cover finance data records. Living expenditure for EU and non-EU domiciled students is estimated using the Student income and expenditure survey. The statistics are new and are in an experimental data stage in a classification of official statistics. This is because the data and underpinning methodology come from various sources with differing degrees of quality and maturity. For example, there is good data on the fee income generated by the number of international students studying at our universities, but there is no systematic collection of revenue from transnational education activity. This must be derived through a variety of estimation techniques. Similarly, not all elements of international education expenditure are available on a regional basis. The data proposed through this amendment is therefore either already used as part of the export data that we publish or is unavailable, in which case we cannot legislate to make it so. But we share the desire for better data on education exports to support our ambitions in this area.

As announced by the Chancellor in a Written Ministerial Statement today, the new international education strategy will be published in due course. It will set out the Government’s ambitions for growing the UK’s education exports. This will include making sure that we optimise our position in the market for promoting a competitive and welcoming offer for international students. So the important statistic is extremely important. With that explanation, I ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve Crossbench 7:00 pm, 13th March 2019

I thank the Minister for a very interesting reply and, of course, for the publication of the new document, which I look forward to; I understand that it is due imminently. To get the statistics right is not a simple matter: they interact in quite difficult ways with the metrics that we use for our own domestic students and for quality control. It is surely important to get this right and, since I hear the note of optimism that an attempt will be made to get it right, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 33 withdrawn.