Good evening. It is a real pleasure to be here, addressing representatives of one of the UK’s most important sectors.
There is a fashion among many sectors to say that they are ‘forward-looking’, but in the case of education, it is quite literally true.
No other industry is as concerned with the future. Education rests entirely on unlocking future potential, investing in people not for short-term gain, but for rewards which are spread over a lifetime.
It is an honour to support an industry that has such a transformative effect upon the lives of millions.
People not involved in education often refer to ‘The UK Education Sector’ as if it were a homogeneous group.
In fact, as we all know, education encompasses a wide variety of sectors, each with their own markets, offerings and success stories.
Higher education cannot be classified alongside English Language Training. Schools cannot be grouped together with Technical and Vocational Training, or with Educational Technology.
In fact, today’s event offers a rare chance for all of these sectors to come together, providing you all with an unprecedented opportunity to explore the whole of the world-class UK education offering.
That is why, as Secretary of State for International Trade I was so eager to be here this evening to address you.
I wanted the opportunity to set out just how vital this sector is for the UK’s future trading relationships.
My Department for International Trade’s vision is of the United Kingdom trading its way to prosperity, stability and security.
Our mission is to help businesses export, drive investment, open up markets and champion free trade.
This country is opening a new chapter in its history. If we are to realise the opportunities that Brexit has brought us, we must be ready to expand our trading relationships around the world with old friends and new allies.
Trade is the driver of this nation’s wealth, offering vast economic benefits, as well as transforming the lives of ordinary people across the UK.
Our mission is a vital one if we are to project this country’s prosperity throughout the 21st century.
Clearly, the education sector has a vital role to play in achieving this ambition.
The UK is a world leader in education exports. It is safe to say that, anywhere in the world that people are learning, British education is in demand.
Our Higher Education is delivered in all but five countries in the world.
Our school-level K-12 Curriculum is the most popular globally, and thousands of schools are based upon the ‘British Model’.
Half of Europe’s fastest-growing education technology companies are based in the UK.
As head of a department responsible for boosting Britain’s exports, the success of the education sector is to me, a demonstration of what can be achieved.
These are truly remarkable achievements. They are a testament to the high quality of UK education, and adaptability that makes it suited to any nation.
It is also a clear reflection of the fact that British education is the most famous on earth.
Our schools and universities are household names in countries thousands of miles from the United Kingdom.
Many of our higher education institutions boast more Nobel Prize winners than entire nations.
This aspect of education reveals another vital strength of UK education – its enhancement of Britain’s global reputation, and a driver of our soft power.
The 21st Century will undoubtedly see a new global economic order emerge, as the economies of Asia, Africa and South America expand.
If Britain is to remain a leading global nation, then we must be able to build successful trading relationships with these nations.
Fortunately, the world’s developing economies, as well as existing powers such as China, are already talking about the advantage of the UK’s world-leading education exports.
Many of the future political and business leaders are learning a British curriculum, learning in a British school, or attending a British higher education institution.
The bonds of familiarity and friendship with the United Kingdom will be invaluable. The UK education sector is creating a generation of young people with a personal connection to Britain.
These relationships will come to fruition, and will undoubtedly play a central role in this country’s future diplomatic and economic success.
Yet there is always more to do. The global opportunities available to the education sector are vast, and the demand almost limitless.
The Department for International Trade is keen to see even more UK education companies exporting.
My department offers practical help and support to all exporters, whether looking to expand a large operation or exploring overseas markets for the first time.
We have a full complement of specialists, covering each of the five main education subsectors, and we will link providers up with one of the world’s largest and most revered diplomatic networks, active in 108 markets around the globe.
This network is already helping over 100 UK schools make their international expansion journey.
We already boast a wide range of individual TVET organisations, each of which is successful internationally.
But perhaps it could be argued that we have lacked strategic international UK skills offerings that would permit us to engage in broader-based, larger-scale programmes overseas.
It is for that reason that tonight I am delighted to announce the launch of the UK Skills Partnership.
The partnership has brought together the sector in order to shape and form a more coherent UK Technical and Vocational Education and Training offer.
The member organisations of the UK Skills Partnership will work together in a positive, collaborative and non-competitive way to build the UK TVET sector capacity, reach and engagement in international activities.
They will provide collective insight on matters relating to vocational skills development in international markets.
And they will develop and act as an advocate for the UK’s TVET offer internationally.
I urge you all to find out more about engaging with the UK Skills partnership. More information is available at their stand, at the edge of this room.
Last year’s referendum has given this opportunity to build a new, outward-looking Britain – a country that embraces the opportunities of the world.
For the first time in more than four decades, we will have a fully independent trade policy. This means that we will be able to design trading conditions that will not only benefit this country’s economy but also its businesses and consumers.
We will use our influence to open new markets across the world to British businesses, bringing a new era of prosperity to them, and to this country.
My Department’s task is to build a truly global Britain. To succeed, we need the support of Britain’s world-beating education sector. In turn, we will do everything in our power to help you export, expand, and succeed.
This country has been given a golden opportunity to shape not only our own future but the future of global trade.
Get it right, and our reward will be a safer, more secure, and more prosperous Britain for the next generation.
And now I’d like to hand over to Geoff Gladding who leads the DIT Education sector team, to tell you a little more about me Department’s offer to you.