82. STUDENT MOBILITY IN THE EUROPEAN
COMMUNITY (27TH REPORT, SESSION 1997-98)
Memorandum submitted by the Department
for Education and Employment
The Government thanks the Committee for this
thoughtful and helpful report and welcomes its recommendations.
The Government wishes to present the report and this response
to the relevant authorities in the European Union.
It is undoubtedly the case, as the Committee
concludes, that the European and, indeed, international dimension
of higher education is vitally important and can no longer be
considered an add-on  by Government or by institutions. We
welcome this opportunity to clarify and restate our policy in
this area and to deal with the specific points about the Socrates-Erasmus
programme raised by the Committee.
The Government's policy on international student
mobility embraces three kinds of student originating outside the
United Kingdom, all of whom were discussed by the various witnesses.
Firstly, and the subject of the report, there
are those students who come to or go from the UK for part of their
course, and in particular those who come under the auspices of
the European Community programmes, especially Socrates-Erasmus.
Detailed comments and responses to the Committee's recommendations
are set out below. Separately, many others study in the UK or
overseas (often further afield than the EU) under bilateral agreements
between institutions. The UK Government has in place mechanisms
for supporting such activity, particularly by offering those studying
in high cost countries additional support towards their costs.
Secondly, there are those students who come
to the United Kingdom from elsewhere in the European Union for
a complete higher education course. In essence, these are "home"
students. They are entitled to be treated and funded in exactly
the same way as students from the UK as far as tuition fees and
block grants are concerned. As the Committee heard, there are
significantly more students who choose to come to the UK than
there are UK students who choose to study a complete course elsewhere
in the EU. Some have argued that this imbalance is unsatisfactory.
The Government considers that this in-flow has
many positive advantages. It represents a vote of confidence in
the quality of UK higher education, both by our own students and
by others in the EU. It encourages the "European dimension"
to develop in institutions and exposes those students who do not
themselves travel to an international atmosphere. Finally, although
there is a direct cost in terms of support towards tuition costs,
these students are not entitled to financial support towards their
maintenance costs from the UK Government. Therefore, any money
that they spend here contributes directly to the UK economy (and,
through indirect taxation, to Government income).
The Government does not actively encourage individuals
from the UK to study in another country for the whole of their
higher education, nor would the Government wish to encourage active
marketing of UK higher education to potential first degree students
from elsewhere in the EU, although this is a matter for institutions.
The position of full fee paying EU students on certain postgraduate
courses is different and closer to that of students from outside
the EU. We remain committed to ensuring that we continue to fulfil
our treaty obligations in the granting of access to UK higher
education and in the charging of tuition fees.
Finally, there is the growing group of students
from outside the EU, who are designated as "overseas"
students. The Government unreservedly welcomes these students
to the UK, for their contribution to academic life in our institutions
and for their contribution to the internationalisation of UK higher
education. It is, however, reasonable to expect that students
from outside the EU should be prepared to fund the full cost of
their higher education, both tuition costs and living expenses.
The Government encourages institutions in the responsible and
prudent marketing of UK higher education overseas, including to
EU postgraduates, and recognises the valuable contribution that
this makes to export earnings.
The Government funds many scholarships for such
students, most famously through the Chevening Scholarships. Many
more students are, of course, sponsored by their own governments
or by industry.
The Government recognises the long-term benefits
which accrue to the United Kingdom from hosting all of these different
kinds of students in UK higher education institutions .
The Government agrees with the conclusion of
the Committee  that these programmes are successful and are
of benefit to the country and to institutions and students.
The Government shares the Committee's perception
of the value of SOCRATES as a means of supporting and supplementing
Member States' efforts to offer high-quality education at all
levels. The Government believes that citizens' ability to become
and remain employable within the Single European Market will increasingly
depend on their having access to the European dimension of education,
training and retraining provision. While acknowledging the Committee's
particular interest in the ERASMUS action, the Government thinks
it important to bear in mind that the SOCRATES programme is addressed
not only to the higher education sector, but also to schools and
to adult learners. The Government also reminds the Committee of
the close links that are developing between actions under SOCRATES
and actions under the LEONARDO DA VINCI vocational training programme,
and of the need to intensify those links in the next generation
of programmes. These links will be vital to the development of
coherent Community support for Member States' lifelong learning
The Government has broadly welcomed the European
Commission's proposal for the second phase of the SOCRATES programme
(SOCRATES II), and hopes that this will build on the success of
the current programme in helping Member States to develop the
European dimension of education at all levels. The Government
welcomes in particular the Commission's stated intention to secure
better links and pathways between the programme's various actions
as well as with programmes in the fields of vocational training
and youth. However, the Government believes that there is scope
in the interests of enhancing accessibility and user-friendliness
for the new programme to be simplified and to employ more decentralised
procedures. [217, 219]
The Government believes that, in view of the
need for more synergy between education, vocational training and
youth actions as well as the critical mass of activity in non-higher
education built up by SOCRATES, there is a need to consider the
balance of resources between the different levels of education
in the future programme. However, it also acknowledges the existing
unfulfilled demand for SOCRATES funds, particularly in respect
of the ERASMUS action. The Government believes that the financial
resources allocated to SOCRATES II should be commensurate with
the scale and nature of the activity to be undertaken. The Government
will not, therefore, take a final view on the programme's funding
needs until negotiations have clarified its eventual contents.
However, given the fact that the UK is a net contributor to the
budget of the European Union, the Government reminds the Committee
of the need to ensure that EU funds are spent in the most effective
way possible, and that activities undertaken with EU support make
a tangible contribution to enriching the experience of learners.
[188, 189, 190]
The Government is in full agreement with the
Committee that SOCRATES II must be as flexible as possible in
order to offer the widest possible access to learners and to remain
responsive to changing needs and priorities. The UK and other
Member States are currently considering how this flexibility might
best be achieved, particularly in respect of the proposed joint
actions between SOCRATES II and other EU programmes. 
The Government believes it highly important
that the new programme reach out to groups that have in the past
enjoyed fewer opportunities to benefit from European co-operation,
notably learners in further and adult education, the disabled
and the disadvantaged. The UK will press the European Commission
to cover access issues in its programme monitoring and evaluation
arrangements. Such monitoring would enable Member States to assess
how far the programme's goal of promoting a culture of lifelong
learning was being achieved. [204, 205]
The Government sees the improvement of language-learning
opportunities as one of the fundamental goals of European co-operation
in education. It agrees with the Committee that the policy of
giving preference to minority EU languages should be reviewed,
in view of the much higher level of demand for more widely used
languages. However, the Government is not convinced that giving
priority to the English language as such would be an achievable
objective. [209, 210, 211, 212]
The Government broadly agrees with the Committee's
recommendations to the Commission about a greater use of innovative
language preparation, including summer courses and that mobility
should be key to the new programmes. [203, 207]
The Committee makes a number of points about
Socrates-Erasmus and, in particular, the imbalance of participation.
We endorse wholeheartedly the conclusions at
paragraph 191 and 192 and consider that Socrates-Erasmus already
forms a central part of the Government's strategy for a European
(and international) dimension in higher education. It is, of course,
for individual institutions to determine how best to approach
the international dimension in the context of their own missions.
In this, they have the assistance of the DfEE (which retains overall
policy control for the programme) and the DfEE-sponsored UK Socrates-Erasmus
Council which administers the programme and, through its executive
body, provides a valuable focus for discussion and input to Government
and the European Commission.
The Government recognises the issues raised
by the imbalance of student flows. We endorse the Committee's
view that there are many benefits to the UK, to institutions and
to students in having large numbers of foreign students in our
institutions [194 and 197], both within and outside the Socrates-Erasmus
Despite concern about the direct cost of the
imbalance, we recognise and endorse the view that it represents
on the whole a lost opportunity for UK students, in that many
more could take part. However, given that UK students already
participate at roughly the rate that one would expect given our
population as a proportion of the EU total, and the factors affecting
participation identified by the Committee that are outside the
Government's or institutions' control, it is probably unrealistic
to expect complete parity. It is the Government's view that it
is for institutions to decide how far they are prepared to accept
an imbalance in student flows. Having examined the case for seeking
compensation in recognition of the imbalance, the Government concludes
that this would probably be counter-productive. We will, however,
be seeking the assistance of the European Commission in other
ways, beginning with a bi-lateral meeting with the Commission.
We will also pursue structural and administrative improvements
during negotiations on the new programme. 
Although there have been many efforts at all
levels to improve participation, more can be, and is being, done
by Government, by the Commission, by other central bodies and
by institutions to encourage greater levels of participation by
UK students. The reasons for non-participation are many and complex.
It is our view that no single solution is likely to improve participation.
Baroness Blackstone has met representatives
of the UK Socrates-Erasmus Council . Some of the Government's
existing and proposed activities were discussed at that meeting
and are outlined below.
During its Presidency of the EU, the Government
organised and distributed publicity and learning material and
organised conferences and competitions for those involved in education.
This campaign stressed the opportunities offered in Europe. In
particular the pack aimed at schools received many plaudits at
home and overseas. In due course, we would expect to see a positive
effect on participation rates.
It was suggested that a re-launch of the programme
would be invaluable in raising the profile of Socrates-Erasmus.
A high profile event with a Ministerial speech, to include participation
of employers and other social partners was envisaged for the middle
of 1999. This would coincide with the current timetable for the
new EU programmes which will be launched in January 2000. In addition
to the high profile event, it was suggested that there might be
regional events, possibly involving regional development agencies
and other partners.
Further, the DfEE will be publishing a revised
edition of its publication "European Choice", outlining
the advantages of participation in study abroad. Next year's publication
will cover all of the countries participating in Socrates-Erasmus
including the new ones and will be available to students and prospective
students in paper format and on the internet.
UKSEC staff have been conducting a series of
publicity events and offer information and advice on the internet
and over the telephone.
Officials have held discussions with a range
of other interested groups and will maintain contact with them.
These include the University Council for Modern Languages and
the Association of University European Officers (HEURO). Many
groups have ideas about improving participation rates and can
Given that finance may be a factor for some
students, the Government is committed to continuing to provide
broadly the same level of financial support towards the travel
and living costs of those students studying in high cost countries.
UKSEC suggested that others, particularly business and the City
might become involved in providing additional funds for a "superErasmus"
The Committee welcomed the announcement that
fees will be waived for those students taking part in Socrates-Erasmus
for a full academic year. The effect that this has on patterns
of participation will be monitored closely. The Government does
not view incoming Socrates-Erasmus students and "third country"
(or "overseas") students as in conflictas "third
country" students cover the entire cost of their education,
they will inevitably be attractive to institutions. However, they
are not competing for the same places as incoming Socrates-Erasmus
students or students from elsewhere in the EU. Indeed more "third
country" students increase the overall funds available to
institutions and can only benefit the quality of education offered.
Students from other EU countries, as is detailed above, are no
more or less attractive to institutions than "home"
students. The Government does not regard this as perverse [200,
Complexity in administration and long time delays
are clearly factors in the participation rates of both students
and institutions, who are asked to predict participation up to
two years ahead.The Government will press for greater flexibility
and clarity in the administration of the new programme. We therefore
broadly support the conclusions of the committee [213, 214, 215,
216] aimed at improving instititutional participation and in particular
welcome the Committee's endorsement of the view that a greater
role for national agencies in the management of the programme
would lead to wider participation and reduced drop out .
Academic and social preparation and recognition
The Government agrees that it is important that
the period of study abroad should be useful to the student and
recognised on their return. A key factor here is greater use of
the European Credit Transfer Scheme, which we endorse, and close
co-operation between universities. 
Further, we welcome the recommendation that
the Commission should seek innovative ways to involve those groups
which have been reluctant to participate in the programmes. 
Language and language assistants
In addition to the points made above, in the
context of the new programmes, the Central Bureau for Educational
Visits and Exchanges organises the Foreign Language Assistant
programme for schools. It undertook in 1996, at the request of
Government, a study into the decline in the use of foreign language
assistants in schools. The Central Bureau is now taking action
to arrest and reverse this decline, including promotion, dissemination
of good practice, outreach with local and regional partner organisations,
improvements in management and quality of the programme itself
and working with national partners, such as the Teacher Training
Agency and OFSTED. 
It is, of course, for higher education institutions
to determine their own staffing needs, including the use of language
assistants. The Government, however, commends the Committee's
recommendation to the sector. Many Universities already offer
programmes that make the study of a foreign language available
to most, if not all, students. The Government will examine ways
in which such best practice (including the use of summer courses)
could be made more widely available, together with the Funding
The Government has announced its intention to
broaden the A level curriculum to allow more subjects, including
languages, to be studied in the first year. A significant increase
in the teaching of languages in primary schools is a worthwhile
objective but in the long term only. There are not enough language
teachers available and the resource and organisational implications
would be formidable. We welcome the survey finding (CILT 1995)
that 20 per cent of primary schools teach a foreign language and
that this number is rising.