The student business – PM must sell our top-class education system to China, says leading North West businessman
A North West businessman has hailed Prime Minister David Cameron’s emphasis on the UK’s “top class education system” as the best way to bring in business from China.
Anthony Jackson, whose Portergate Property Management company is already bringing in Chinese investment money to the region, says the Chinese love our universities and are demanding top class facilities for their young undergraduates.
Mr Jackson’s own trade visit to China in October preceded the Government’s official trip this week and he has first hand knowledge of the reception Mr Cameron will receive – and the message he will be bringing home.
“The Chinese people I am doing business with in Beijing, in Shanghai and in Hong Kong all respect the BBC and know all about MediaCity in Salford. They love Manchester United and Manchester City.
“They want to send their children to our universities – not just because they are ranked among the best in the world, but also because of the unique cultural and social experience they know their young people will enjoy.”
This week, David Cameron said he would: “Improve the UK’s visa arrangements with a new mobile visa service up and running in Beijing and Shanghai and a new 24-hour visa service on offer from next summer.”
At education trade and investment fairs in China Mr Jackson was told that the highest standards of accommodation are necessary in the North West to help tempt wealthy Chinese students here – as well as making it easier to gain access to the UK.
Portergate has just opened Riverside House in Salford, a £18 million purpose-built hotel-class hall of residence serving the University of Salford and the Manchester universities. Many of the residents are from China and other overseas territories.
A second, more ambitious hotel-class £18 million student village is being built in Preston to help meet a rising demand from overseas students.
Research from property expert Savills highlights the growing importance of overseas students, particularly from Asia, whose numbers have grown on average 8.5% over the last six years.
The UK Government also recognises this. Its plans to attract even more students is part of a new International Education Strategy, which has revealed for the first time that the UK’s education export industry is worth a staggering £17.5 billion to the economy.
Sir Tom Hunter, an entrepreneur, philanthropist and China specialist wrote in the Daily Telegraph this week: “We need to arm our future Chancellors, Mayors of London and high-flying business leaders with the tools, knowledge and China-focused insight to create and sustain growth.
This has real implications for the UK education system. The UK’s future leaders need not only literacy of business but also the alternative cross-cultural perspectives that enable them to be global leaders. Education is key to unlocking China.
“If we fail to forge educational and cultural links with China, we fail the UK’s future workforce and put British industry, our entrepreneurs and UK plc at a strategic disadvantage.”
Mr Jackson says: “Our research in China and elsewhere is telling us that a superior standard of student accommodation is expected to go alongside the social and cultural attractions already in place and that is what Portergate is delivering.
“Like David Cameron, I know from first-hand experience you have to make the effort to visit China, meet the decision-makers and understand their requirements to do the deal.
“At Riverside House in Salford and in Preston we are a little bot ahead of the game in building what the Chinese and other nationalities want.”
In October, Mr Jackson led a successful Portergate Property Management team to the high-profile Overseas Property Investment Show in Shanghai, a major international event, attracting 130,000 visitors and featuring hundreds of specialist exhibitors from 30 nations across the globe.
Riverside House, which is taking in new residents from the local student population all the time, is within walking distance of the University of Salford, an institution attracting more than 3,000 international students from more than 100 nations around the globe.
Work will start soon on Portergate’s new Preston venture, which will be built in the university quarter of a city that welcomes more than 2,000 international students each year, representing more than 100 nationalities.