Skills International Growth - UK Skills Partnership

Supporting International Growth

Supporting International Growth : Maximising the value of UK education exports.

Lizzie Gaunlett, Senior Policy Officer and International Lead at the Federation of Awarding Bodies.

The Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) estimate that around 90 regulated Awarding Organisations (AOs) are currently active in overseas markets. Set against the complex and uncertain context of UK reforms, international education export presents a wealth of opportunities for these organisations and the UK.

The scale of the work undertaken by AOs overseas is difficult to accurately measure. Since 2019, Ofqual has made it a mandatory requirement for the regulated community in England to report international certifications. The Ofqual Annual Qualifications Market Report (AQMR) reported that a total 6.7 million certificates were awarded for 2,600 different regulated qualifications to students outside the UK over the 2021 to 2022 academic year, up by 17% compared to the previous year.

Supporting International Growth – regulators in the devolved administrations do not mandate reporting.

Figure 1 provides the most recent estimate from the UK Skills Partnership on the spread of work across the UK.

Figure 1: International certifications by UK awarding bodies, 2019/20

Skills International Growth: UKSP Volume of Exports Data Summary

Figure 2: UK skills sector exports in £billions 2019/2021 inclusive

Skills International Growth: UKSP Value of Exports Data Summary

Source: UK Skills Partnership / British Council – ‘The value of UK skills sector exports’ (2022)

The value of the qualifications export market is significant.

Figure 2 shows the latest figures available healthy export position in international regulated qualifications worth c. £2 billion per annum in 2019 (against a total UK export trade in all services of £196 billion in 2020).

Supporting International Growth: By 2030, the UK government is committed to raising overall education sector exports (which include foreign student enrolments) to £35 billion per annum [IES 2023 update]. The latest figures available for all education related exports suggests the UK trades around £25.2 billion per annum in overseas markets. The contribution of Awarding Organisation’s to this figure can be estimated to be about 8 per cent. From 2020 onwards, to meet the £35 billion ambition by 2030, an average annual increase in export revenue of around 3% per year is needed.

There are currently myriad ways to find out what qualifications are available internationally. If overseas customers know the name of the awarding organisation(s) they want to work with they can go direct to their website(s); or they can google the subject of the qualification they are interested in. They can also freely access the databases of qualifications kept by the home nation’s regulators, like Ofqual and SQA; and funding registers kept by public bodies like the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).

The main problem with all these databases is that they are only partial registers set up with specific purposes in mind. And none of these current data access points are in existence to specifically promote Awarding Organisation’s international Vocational Training Qualification exports.

For this reason, the Federation of Awarding Bodies are currently working alongside the Department for Business and Trade to develop Q-UK, a UK Vocational Qualifications Exports Register targeting overseas customers include officials working for national or local governments; training institutions; qualifications authorities and regulators; private/ public businesses or individuals. Multilateral institutions like the International Labour Organisation [ILO] or the World Bank will also have an interest in accessing a single source of approved UK vocational qualifications for international use.

This is an excellent initiative that will support international growth by helping awarding organisations to extend their overseas technical and vocational market presence and enable international organisations, governments, industry and providers to easily access UK vocational qualifications. Q-UK aligns with the ambitions of the UK Skills Partnership to position the UK as a global leader in world-class technical vocational education and training and enable sustainable growth in TVET capability and capacity overseas. Check out some of our case studies to see UK qualifications in action in an international setting.

 Jane Rexworthy, Chair of the UK Skills Partnership

Federation of Awarding Bodies: Q-UK International Register

Skills International Growth: Federation of Awarding Bodies - Q-UK
The complexity and uncertainty from ongoing qualification reforms in the UK education sector create challenges for Awarding Organisations (AOs) seeking international growth by introducing changes that AOs need to navigate. These reforms involve changes to curriculum, assessment methods, and grading systems, impacting the entire education landscape.

The lack of reporting for international certifications in devolved administrations poses challenges in accurately measuring the scale and impact of education exports in those regions. Without comprehensive data, it becomes difficult to understand the full extent of AOs’ activities and contributions to international education and so we need AO’s to ensure they feed in their international data to the Federation of Awarding Bodies.

The value and volume of the qualifications export market is positive and growing no doubt. There are a number key drivers or obstacles influencing the success of UK Awarding Organisations in overseas markets. Understanding these factors as part of due diligence is crucial for developing effective strategies to enhance the international presence and performance of AOs. Working in partnership with the Department for Business and Trade’s International Education Team is essential.

Q-UK, a Vocational Qualifications Exports Register developed by the Federation of Awarding Bodies provides a brilliant searchable tool that enables anyone to find qualifications and awarding organisations by country, by industry sector, by level and more available for use in international settings.