Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Post-16 - Expanding into Uncharted Territory: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Post-16 - Expanding into Uncharted Territory: News

Article excerpt

British colleges aim to plug the skills gap in South America.

The Asian powerhouses of China and India have hitherto been the primary focus of Western colleges seeking to generate revenue by exporting their own brands of vocational education.

But as the world shifts its gaze to Brazil ahead of the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, British colleges are increasingly turning their attention to South America.

"There's a sales job to be done; a marketing job about the UK brand," said John Mountford, international director of the Association of Colleges (AoC). "It's competitive but we have a really good offer. We're flexible, nimble and have recognisable, transferable qualifications."

At the launch of its international education export strategy last week, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills played up the global popularity of the UK's exam boards, including City & Guilds, Pearson and Cambridge Assessment.

In particular, the AoC believes these could do well in Brazil and Colombia, not least because Colombia lacks a nationally funded and structured further education system with transferable qualifications. At present, skills training in the country is largely organised on a sector- by-sector basis, funded by levies from the main players in each industry and resulting in less formalised qualifications that have little value in other sectors.

After an official visit by UK universities and science minister David Willetts and AoC chief executive Martin Doel earlier this year, Mr Mountford believes that Colombia could provide rich pickings for the association's member colleges. "Some interesting opportunities have arisen," he said. "It's got a growing population and a developing economy. But they need skills to develop that process."

The AoC has also been raising its profile in Brazil, where the higher education sector has so far been the UK's main area of focus. The Science Without Borders scholarship programme, for example - paid for by the Brazilian government - helps to fund students from that country to spend a year at a British university studying modules related to science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the creative industries. About 10,000 Brazilian undergraduates and postgraduate students are expected to come to the UK by 2016.

The AoC is now pushing for this scheme to be expanded to the further education sector, and has held high-level talks about bringing Brazilian students to UK colleges to study for vocational qualifications. …

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