Gwen Williams heads up the international team at Universities Wales and manages the ‘Global Wales’ programme.
As a membership organisation representing the interests of universities in Wales, one would easily forgive the assumption that Universities Wales is wholly focussed on Cardiff Bay. While in large part this is true, I consider myself privileged to be responsible for an altogether different aspect of the organisation’s work – international!
The 21,350 international and EU students studying at Welsh universities bring significant economic, social and cultural benefits to Wales, contributing around £500 million to the Welsh economy annually. Along with the thousands of international staff employed by universities who teach our students and help maintain our highly reputable research base, they provide an invaluable multi-cultural dimension to Welsh campuses.
The competition to attract international students is fierce: Education quality and provision continues to improve in “sending” countries; governments in many competitor countries have implemented successful policies to attract international students; meanwhile UK immigration policy and the wider debate around Brexit is widely seen to be disadvantageous to UK universities.
Global Wales – The project
Against this backdrop and with the significant positive economic impact of international students in mind, the ‘Global Wales’ project was established to provide strategic support to universities in a small number of target markets. Initiated and led by the sector via Universities Wales, project partners include Welsh Government, British Council Wales, and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW).
Shortly after being established, Global Wales took on two target markets: the US and Vietnam. Work in the US mostly focused around profile raising to address Wales’ relatively low market share of US students in the UK. Vietnam, a largely untapped opportunity market for Wales where the government is actively seeking international partners, called for an altogether different approach leveraging the entire Welsh higher education system for policy dialogue, partnership building and student and staff mobility.
In July 2018, the Welsh Government announced an investment of over £3.5 million in the Global Wales project (2018-2021). The funding allows for:
- Development of existing target markets
- Expansion to include new markets
- A major reinvestment in a wider programme of activity for the ‘Study in Wales’ brand domestically and internationally
Stock take / view from the team
It’s been an incredibly busy but rewarding six months for Universities Wales as we set about establishing the project, recruiting a team and delivering our first priority projects. Highlights to date include welcoming the Vietnamese Education Minister and a delegation of 60 universities, schools and businesses to Cardiff; the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for collaboration on education between the Welsh and Vietnamese governments; and securing an agreement with the FCO’s Chevening programme to award 10 postgraduate scholarships per year to Vietnamese students to study in Wales.
I’m delighted to be joined by three colleagues to form a new Global Wales team! Looking ahead, with visits to Vietnam in March and April and the US in May, we can look forward to a busy spring. We’ll also be welcoming a delegation of US guidance counsellors to Wales in May. By June, a third priority market will have been identified via our partners at British Council Wales. And finally, do keep an eye out for further scholarship announcements over the course of the next few months!