Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills has urged the UK's top business leaders to support the 'Generation UK' campaign, a British Council initiative which aims to see 80,000 UK students work or study in China by 2020.
Ahead of his visit to China, Mr Cable wrote to leading business leaders, including many of the FTSE 100's CEOs, to request their support for the programme, which aims to give British students the broader skill set demanded by a more competitive globalised labour market.
In his note, Mr Cable stated that whilst China exports around 100,000 students to the UK each year, the UK responds by only sending a meager 5,400 students the other way. By comparison, in 2012 there were over 24,000 US students and 8,400 French students studying in China.
With the East growing in economic influence, resulting in a strong shift of economic power towards countries such as China, there is a need for British students to develop language skills and obtain a firm grasp on Far-Eastern business culture to remain competitive. According to research by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the UK's deficiency in language skills costs the economy around £48bn per annum, or 3.5% of GDP.
Generation UK, which was launched by the British Council (the UK's international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities) in June 2013, is directly providing opportunities for UK students in China through academic scholarships and funding support for internships. This summer alone, it is anticipated that there will be over 200 places for internships and academic study in China directly through Generation UK.