Breaking boundaries

Sean Gardner looks at how ‘social education’€™ can help prospective international students to prepare for studying in England

It’s not a new phenomenon that the UK has a reputation for high-quality education. Our universities, colleges and schools have long been recognised globally for their excellence, making the UK an attractive and popular destination for international students at all levels of education.

The statistics are there to back this up. International students currently contribute an estimated £8bn to the UK economy and, according to the Higher Education Funding Council, more than 50,000 non-EU students enrolled as undergraduates in England in 2012, up from 30,000 in 2005. In 2012/2013 there were a total of 347,555 international students studying in English universities, representing 18% of the entire student population in England.

There is also evidence of increased demand at boarding schools. In 2012/13 there were nearly 26,000 international students studying at over 12,000 UK independent schools, up significantly from 20,500 in 2007/08, and representing an average annual growth of 4.8%.

However, despite this clear upward trend, many potential students may be restricted entry by failing to achieve the necessary English language qualifications required for their course. This is one of several areas where social education or online teaching courses can be invaluable to international students.

The growth of social education, as a new way of learning for the internet generation, has already grown quickly into an industry worth £8bn worldwide and is set to revolutionise traditional ways of learning. One of its greatest assets is that, through using the internet, it can be accessed globally meaning that, with no international boundaries, students can benefit no matter where they reside in the world.

Using the social education platform, students looking to study in the UK can take strides towards preparing themselves for the experience, gaining valuable knowledge of the language and culture through the online learning experience, wherever they are based.

By utilising the latest technologies, students are able to take part in interactive online lessons in order to access a broader curriculum, or to support interventions to improve their attainment. The flexible platform enables them to hear and see their teacher via their online devices, to ask questions and to share a common whiteboard. Lessons can be run either one-to-one or as a small group with those participating coming from a single school or from multiple locations, whether national or international.

At Tute, we’re finding an increasing demand from international markets. As we now include both A level and GCSE syllabus courses, international students can gain an English education or greater cultural awareness directly from abroad, which will greatly advantage them if they intend to study in the UK or look to achieve much sought after English exam board qualifications.

So, what impact could this have on the status quo? Will more international students feel comfortable coming to the UK or will the number reduce as a classroom’s reach extends to a global audience? Perhaps we should also consider what would be the consequence of having more international students with English qualifications in a global marketplace?

Whatever the outcome, it’s clear that the internet age is impacting not only on what is taught but also when, where and how it’s taught. Whether it impacts on the number of international students studying in the UK remains to be seen but what’s certain is that the era of social education is upon us and that there are unprecedented opportunities for schools and students alike, whether at home or abroad.

Sean Gardner is the Founder of social education company Tute.