International activity is a cornerstone in the UK higher education sector. Our work helps UK universities build secure, sustainable relationships with international institutions, researchers, students and partners.
The international dimensions of UK higher education make it diverse, welcoming and collaborative. From international staff and students bringing new perspectives into the community, to cross-border research solving global challenges.
We work closely with policy makers and influencers to protect and build upon the UK higher education sector’s world-leading position.
We also run events, produce insights and publications, share and create opportunities and convene regional and thematic networks to support our members and partners.
Our strategy 2021-23 [pdf] is available to download. It covers five priority areas:
International student recruitment
- Influencing UK and international policy to ensure favourable conditions for international students. We also support international student wellbeing and aim to improve the international student experience.
- We campaigned for post-study work opportunities for international students. This resulted in the announcement of the UK’s new graduate route and increased interest in studying in the UK from key markets.
- We’re working with universities and the government to make sure graduates can make the most of any opportunities to stay and work in the UK.
- We are monitoring the impact of the UK’s exit from the EU on student demand from these markets. We also work with universities and the government to ensure the UK remains an attractive and accessible destination.
- We help UK universities reach their goals to grow and diversify their international student communities.
See more of our work on international student recruitment.
International research collaboration
- Successfully lobbied the government and EU to secure continued UK participation in Horizon Europe, a crucial Europe-wide research programme.
- Identifying and addressing barriers to international collaboration in research and innovation.
- Making the most of opportunities to develop stronger global ties, including attracting new international business investment.
See more of our work on international research collaboration.
- Monitoring and identifying barriers to transnational education (TNE, ie., UK degrees completed outside the UK) operations in priority markets and work towards removing them.
- Analysing data and spot trends in UK higher education TNE, such as the numbers of students studying for a UK degree in each region around the world and the type of transnational education provision being delivered.
- Producing an annual publication – The Scale of UK Higher Education Transnational Education – which tracks TNE trends over time.
See more on our work on transnational education.
Student mobility and international experience
- Working with universities to increase the number of students with international experiences and intercultural understanding.
- Campaigning for students to maintain international opportunities. We informed the development of the UK’s new mobility programme – the Turing Scheme – when it looked likely that the UK would lose access to the Erasmus+ programme. We are working with partners to help fund students from outside the UK (inward mobility).
- Focusing on sustainability, combined with the restrictions on physical mobility caused by the pandemic, has encouraged universities to further explore alternative and virtual options.
- Making sure international experience of all kinds is high on the UK government’s agenda. International programmes must be well-funded and enable all students to take part, regardless of background.
See more of our work on student mobility and international experience.
Supporting UK universities to develop the capabilities, understanding and resilience to meet new challenges
This strategic aim runs throughout our work.
We receive funding from member subscriptions via UUK. In addition, we receive grant funding from:
Department for the Economy (Northern Ireland)
Department for the Economy’s responsibilities include economic policy, energy, higher and further education, and tourism. The role of their higher education division is to formulate policy and administer funding to support education, research and related activities in the Northern Ireland higher education sector.
Higher Education Funding Council for Wales
The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) regulates fee levels at higher education providers, makes sure a framework is in place for assessing the quality of higher education and scrutinises the performance of universities and other service providers. HEFCW also provides funding for teaching, research and innovation, and applies its influence and expertise to help deliver Welsh Government priorities for higher education.
GuildHE is a representative body for UK higher education. Our members include universities, university colleges, further education colleges and specialist institutions from both the traditional and private (not-for-profit and for-profit) sectors. Member institutions include some major providers in professional subject areas including art, design and media, music and the performing arts; agriculture and food; education; business and law, the built environment; health and sports.
Research England is a new council within UK Research and Innovation. They oversee UK Research and Innovation’s England-only functions in relation to university research and knowledge exchange. This includes providing grant funding to English universities for research and knowledge exchange activities, developing and implementing the Research Excellence Framework in partnership with the UK Higher Education funding bodies and managing the £900 million UK Research Partnership Investment Fund.
Scottish Funding Council
The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) is helping to make Scotland the best place in the world to educate, research and innovate. Investing around £1.9 billion of public money each year, SFC’s funding enables Scotland’s colleges and universities to provide life-changing opportunities for over half a million people.