Wherever I travel, I meet international leaders who have studied in Britain. Dynamic, intelligent people who chose Britain because we offer high quality further and higher education.
This is good news for the UK. People who are educated here have a lasting tie to our country. They promote Britain around the world, helping our trade and our diplomacy. It is easier for our executives and our diplomats to do business with people familiar with Britain.
British exports of education and training are worth some eight billion pounds a year. Money that feeds into our institutions and helps our goal to open up opportunities for more people to study.
Our young people also benefit. They gain from the window on the world which contact with international students gives them. We can teach, but we can also learn from others.
Today, we are launching a long-term strategy to reinforce the United Kingdom as a first choice for the quality of study and the quality of our welcome to international students.
This will be a UK-wide and a Government-wide effort.
We are introducing a package of measures to help encourage students from overseas to study in the UK. We will offer to international students a new welcome and more open doors.
First, a more open door at the outset - we shall make sure that the system works for students who wish to study here. We will improve our service to help potential students meet the requirements of the Immigration Rules. A streamlined visa process for students with completed applications. And permission to stay granted for the whole course of study at the start. Easier to apply, easier to enter.
Second, a door to information - we will market education abroad more professionally, using the British Council offices overseas. We will create a new UK Education Brand for institutions to use, a clear definition of the excellence that UK education provides, building on our position as one of the world's leading educators. New user-friendly information and processes. State of the art electronic information systems to provide clear and practical advice for potential students. A virtual one-stop shop for marketing UK education. Easier to access, easier to use.
Third, a door to finance. We will remove the requirement for students to seek permission from job centres before taking work. Those students guaranteed work by their institution will have their income taken into account at the entry stage as evidence of their ability to pay and support themselves. Easier to work, easier to study.
Finally, to show our commitment to opening up opportunities for international students to study in the UK, we will expand our flagship Chevening scholarship scheme by up to 1,000 extra scholarships a year through Government and private funding. I hope our institutions will support this by waiving part of their fees for all Chevening Scholars.
We have the measures in place, but we are also setting tough targets for recruitment. We want to have 25 per cent of the global market share of Higher Education students and we want to increase the number of international students studying in Further Education institutions by 100 per cent. Our aim is to reach these targets by 2005. Tough targets, but deliverable.
But, while giving these undertakings, I also want to lay down a challenge to others. To business - I ask you to work with the British Council overseas to market education and to match our commitment to Chevening scholarships by providing funds for the scheme. Invest in education and overseas students, let education and business be partners in providing skills and opportunities, raising our profile and establishing links.
And to universities and colleges - I ask you to live up to your reputation, to professionalise your approach, to deliver a quality education to overseas students that encourages involvement and rises to the challenge of our competitors, to work as partners together.
I am leaving from here for the G8 Summit in Cologne. There will be important problems to discuss there, including one that is high on our domestic agenda. Education. We will discuss how G8 countries should equip themselves for the knowledge-driven society of the next century. And how we can share our educational strengths with one another and with the rest of the world.
I hope that at Cologne we will issue a Charter on Lifelong Learning. But one of the most important contributions we can make is to ensure that our universities and colleges are open to able students from around the world. In a world of lifelong learning, British Education is a first class ticket for life. I want to see the benefits of that education, that ticket, given to as many as possible across the world. It is in our interests and it is in their interests that we should.