Lord Willetts, former Minister for Universities, and Sarah Cooper, Chief Executive of English UK. Picture - Policy Exchange
English UK pushes ELT agenda at party conferences

Language school association English UK was given the opportunity to express the views of the ELT sector at the conference events of both major UK political parties recently, highlighting the value of the industry and its wider role in international education exports.

Sarah Cooper, Chief Executive of English UK, was invited to speak at fringe meetings at both the governing Conservative Party conference and the main opposition Labour Party event, developing political contacts including Brandon Lewis, Immigration Minister, and Lucy Powell, a former Shadow Education Secretary who sits on the Education Select Committee, the association said.


The fringe events, entitled The Power of English: Exporting the English Language and Strengthening Britain's Global Position, were organised by Policy Exchange, a centre-right think tank, and other panellists included: Dr Christopher McCormick, Executive Vice-President for Academic Affairs at EF Education First; Lord Willetts, a former UK Minister for Universities and Science and representative of the Resolution Foundation; LBC radio host Iain Dale; and John Blake of Policy Exchange.


"It's been an incredibly valuable experience, enabling me to get a positive message across to party activists and opinion-formers about UK ELT, and in making informal contact with a range of influential people, which I am now following up," said Sarah.


Commenting on the much-debated issue of international students being considered as migrants, she said, "I was interested to discover that, without exception, there was a positive reaction to taking students out of the net migration figures at the fringe events I attended."


In overviews of the industry, Sarah said that more than half of the 500,000 people that studied English in the UK last year were under 18 years old, and highlighted that there were concerns over a potentially more restrictive visa system for European students post-Brexit and that the UK's market share of ELT was eroding.


When quizzed by Sarah on future entry requirements for EU students, Immigration Minister, Brandon Lewis, assured there were no plans to change the visa rules for short-term students.


Labour MP Lucy Powell, whose Manchester constituency includes 16 English UK member schools, said, "The world's language deserves more policy attention."



By Matthew Knott

News Editor