Hear from George van den Bergh, Founder of BESA Member This is School, on his experience at the ‘Global Connections: Education Sector’ event organised by the DBT in collaboration with BESA on Thursday, 21 March 2024.


“The Thatcher Business Education Centre at the Said Business School in Oxford is within striking distance of the train station. There is also a rather threatening looking bronze statue of a bull just outside the building, representing the eponymous Ox of the city and its thrusting aspirations to become an economic thought-leader.

I was there to attend the “Global Connections: Education Sector”, organised by the DBT and in collaboration with BESA. A few years ago, ‘This is School’ – the business I founded and which I’m proud to lead – became a case-study for the DIT after our success in the USA. But this was the first time I had attended a DBT organised conference and, if I’m honest, I was worried about how much I would gain from it.

I needn’t have been because (spoiler alert) these events are incredibly edifying, brilliant for networking (my LinkedIn ping is still pinging) and come sandwiched (pardon the pun) with top-notch food at both ends.

The structure of the day was clear, simple and 3-fold. A DBT International Trade Advisor presented an overview of one of the 3 regions on the agenda (the USA, the Gulf and EECAN) and then there was a panel discussion for each region. The USA came first. Thea Wiltshire (DBT) spoke enthusiastically about the opportunities in this region, where dollar signs are only marginally outnumbered by the threat of litigation and the perils of state taxes. Her panel of speakers included Jack Churchill
(Scanning Pens), Dr Emmanuel Engeli (VetPD) and Julia Garvey (BESA) who were able to speak from deep experience about their success in establishing strongholds, the need to get evidence for your product or service and the importance of refining your offering for the US clients themselves. You say tomato, I say tomato, if you see what I mean.

For the Gulf region, an on-fire Jonathan Ledger (DBT) highlighted the cultural differences between these seemingly similar countries, with a particular focus on the amazing “Vision 2030” from Saudi, representing huge potential for UK exporters in education and training. His panel included James Foster (Lincoln College), Ian Hunter (Lime Education) and Mark Orchison (9ine), all of whom stressed the significance of boots on the ground, relationship building and understanding that there are
“markets within markets” in each Gulf state.

The final region was EECAN, a thrilling region in which to operate, according to the recently mandated and eloquent Sarah Chidgey (DBT). Jane Mann (Cambridge Partnership for Education, at Cambridge University Press & Assessment) gave a convincing portrayal of the challenges and joys of working in this dynamic region and Huan Japes, (English UK), spoke of the clout the region brings to the almost 600,000 students who come to the UK every year.

Alongside these robust and entertaining panel discussions, the day was topped and tailed by Rupert Daniels and Ian Manzie (both DBT) who spoke at a higher level about how DBT can help “you”. Some key takeaways were the importance of the International Education Strategy document – the “guiding star” for the DBT – as well as the newly released training website, “UK Export Academy”, which is a free resource for companies looking to begin their export journey.

I wrote copious notes on the day which I don’t have the space to include here (DM me on LinkedIn if you’d like more) but in summary I can say that fellow members should definitely attend the next one and I needn’t have worried about that rather threatening bull!”