Britain has fewer third-world students

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

The ``Ben Franklin factor'' has a third-world counterpart. Call it the ``Julius Nyerere numbers.'' Britain's education of such third-world leaders as Tanzania's Julius Nyerere, Sudan's Sadiq al-Mahdi, and India's Mohandas Gandhi has enhanced its international standing and trade. But the next generation of African and Asian leaders will be far less likely to go to school here.

The government's cutback has hit thousands of students from developing nations who cannot afford the new overseas fees. As Sir John Burgh, British Council head, noted last autumn in evidence presented to the select foreign affairs committee, only 690 Jordanians - of 40,000 studying abroad - were in Britain.

Government grants to the British Council, which markets the universities abroad as a means of developing international cultural ties, have declined by over 20 percent in real terms since 1979. The number of overseas students in Britain has declined by 38 percent in eight years, according to Sir John.

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At some institutions, the loss of third-world students has been deeply felt. As Tom Millar, a faculty member of the Commonwealth Institute in London notes, the cutbacks have ``changed [Britain's] whole ... educational ambiance. Thirty years ago, [this] place was alive with Indians and Pakistanis.'' But the student profile today is ``noticeably different.''

Third-world students are now choosing to study elsewhere. Money is a key factor: While Britain spent about 216 million ($302 million) on cultural relations last year, West Germany spent 2 times that and France more than three times as much. France played host to some 128,000 overseas students last year; Britain had just 56,121, according to the British Council.

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