Higher education and UK trade policy

4 November 2020

Following the UK’s exit from the EU, the UK will now take complete control of its trade policies – including services in trade, which should be of particular interest to higher education (HE) providers. 

As such, the UK policy stance towards trade in higher education services is a live issue. This report asks what treatment of UK higher education will be most appropriate and beneficial to the sector in the UK’s forthcoming discussions on free trade agreements (FTAs) with partners around the world and provides guidance to inform the development of new agreements.

This note summarises the findings from two pieces of work commissioned from the UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO), and a policy dialogue event. It provides a short introduction to free trade agreements and higher education, before drawing on the results of engagement with 36 universities and learnings from FTAs across the world to present initial views of the higher education sector and to suggest guiding principles for future negotiations. It makes a number of recommendations that aim to enhance the potential impact and effectiveness of UK higher education engagement with FTA negotiations.

This paper is based on research commissioned from the UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO) at the University of Sussex, with additional material provided by Sean O’Connor Consulting and UUKi.

You can view and download our full publication here.


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