US edge over UK on educating world leaders ‘now unbeatable’

Annual Hepi index seeks to track key measure of soft power

八月 22, 2022
Merida, Spain - February 1st, 2018 Equestrian sculpture made by Eduardo Zancada, depicting the Emperor Augustus, founder of Emerita Augusta colony
Source: iStock

The UK has fallen further behind the US in a “Soft-Power Index” produced by the Higher Education Policy Institute, which shows how many serving world leaders were educated in countries other than their own.

In the first year of the index, 2017, there were more world leaders who had been educated in the UK than in any other country, including the US. But the US overtook the UK in 2018 and has been extending its lead since.

The 2022 edition shows that 67 serving leaders were educated in the US, up two on last year and up 10 since 2017. In contrast, the UK educated 55, down two on last year and down three since 2017.

So rather than being one ahead, as it was in 2017, the UK is now 12 behind the US. UK-educated world leaders to have stepped down in the past year include prime ministers of Lebanon, Pakistan and Mozambique.

Other countries that have educated significant numbers of world leaders are France (31), Russia (10), Australia and Switzerland (both seven), Canada and Germany (both six), and Italy and South Africa (both five).

Educating international students has been seen as a key measure of soft power because it is thought to build an “emotional bond” between alumni and a country, as well a support for its culture, language and values.

Nick Hillman, Hepi’s director, said the US’ lead in the Soft-Power Index now seemed “unbeatable, at least in the short term”.

“The good news for those who care about the UK’s standing in the world is that the rules for international students have continued to improve, most recently earlier this month with the ending of compulsory police registration for international students,” Mr Hillman said.

“The newish Graduate Route Visa, which makes it easier for international students to stay in the UK to work, is proving attractive, and the total number of people from other countries studying for UK higher education qualifications continues to grow.

“International students improve the experience of all students by diversifying our campuses and underwriting the financial position of UK universities. Some people responded to last week’s exam results by calling for new restrictions on international students, but it would be better if the next prime minister were to continue the opening-up of UK higher education to international students that has taken place recently. They should reject the more restrictive approach followed between 2010 and 2019.”



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