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UK Falls Behind US in Educating World Leaders

In the HEPI Annual Soft-Power Rankings, the UK has slipped behind the US in the number of world leaders educated in each country

Published on August 27, 2020

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The latest publication of the Annual Soft-Power Rankings by HEPI, the Higher Education Policy Institute, found that the UK is slipping behind the United States in terms of the number of serving world leaders who have been educated within each country's educational system.

The 2020 edition of the annual rankings, which looks at the countries in which serving world leaders were educated, found that between 2017 and 2020, the number of world leaders educated in the US has risen from 57 to 62. During the same period, the number of world leaders educated in the UK fell from 58 to 57. The number of world leaders educated in France (35), Russia (10) and Australia (10) has remained fairly similar between 2017 and 2020.

Responding to the findings, Director of HEPI, Nick Hillman, said "It is sad to see the UK falling further against the US in terms of educating the world’s leaders, even though the UK still performs well relative to all other countries. Yet it is not a complete surprise. The situation reflects the policy environment in place before this year, when some other countries were keener than the UK to succeed in the competitive task of recruiting international students."

Hillman went on to encourage the UK to do more to encourage international students to study in Britain. He urged the UK to "do all we can to come out of the blocks faster than our main competitors by showing UK universities remain fully open to people from around the world ... International students improve the education and research of their institutions while bringing financial benefits to the UK. The students who come here and the institutions they study at both benefit, as does the country as a whole. As the fight against COVID-19 confirms, collaboration across national boundaries is essential in confronting the world’s great challenges."

Despite the findings, UK education remains popular among international students, including Americans. According to UK Universities International, in 2017-18, over 18,885 American students studied in UK higher education institutions, an increase of 7.4% on the 2016-2017 figures.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused some disruption for international students, although both the UK and US have been trying to address difficulties, particularly in terms of introducing exemptions from travel regulations for students studying overseas.

Further details on the HEPI study can be found at www.hepi.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/HEPI-Soft-Power-Ranking-2020.pdf

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