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UK Education Suppliers Call For “Clear and Positive” Post-Brexit Message

  • The overwhelming majority (92%) of education suppliers say there are things the UK government should be doing within the UK now following the EU referendum to sustain and build business confidence
  • Suppliers call for government to deliver a “clear and positive message”, offer forward guidance on education budgets and to show the UK is open for business
  • Both speed and quality of negotiations with the EU are seen to be important priorities, but an EU deal should not be negotiated to the detriment of trade deals with non-EU countries
  • The preference among education suppliers (41%) is for a unique deal to be struck for Britain with the EU, not one “off the peg”

The British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA), which represents over 300 UK-based education suppliers with combined revenues totalling £2.2 billion, today called on the government to focus on maintaining market confidence with a “clear and positive message” that Britain is open for business. One called for the creation of “an atmosphere of clarity and certainty as to the way forward”.

BESA’s comments are informed by a survey of 131 of its members about the challenges and opportunities post-Brexit, undertaken for the Department for International Trade (DIT). It found that the biggest risk to education suppliers is not curbs on immigration or a reduction in student numbers, but a tightening of UK education budgets by government and by anxious headteachers.

Suppliers called on the government to “act swiftly and assertively” during Brexit negotiations and that “a focus on positives would be helpful, as the immediate reaction has been heavily focused on what could go wrong”.

While speed is seen to be important, survey respondents say this shouldn’t be to the detriment of the quality of deals struck. As one put it: “Speed AND quality are of the essence. Delaying invoking Article 50 makes the UK look weak and indecisive. It may have been the case that the UK hadn’t prepared a plan for Brexit, but it’s vital people are working around the clock to make it work now.”

The greatest preference among education suppliers is for a unique deal with the EU to be struck for Britain (41%), rather than one that is “off-the-peg”. However, larger companies expressed a preference for remaining part of the European Economic Area (EEA). Many companies pointed to the importance of looking beyond the EU. As one put it: “We now have an unparalleled opportunity to engage with China and the rest of the world – we should seize it.”

Caroline Wright, Director General of BESA, comments: “We welcome the fact that so early in its creation the Department for International Trade has, under Liam Fox MP, begun to extensively consult UK businesses on their priorities following the Brexit vote. Our members have overwhelmingly responded in the spirit of wanting to make a success out the new trading environment that is now being forged.”

“The UK has long led the way in exporting education to the world, and we believe that education is brimming with the potential to become one of the UK’s great post-Brexit success stories. BESA and its members look forward to working closely with DIT in order to realise this potential.”

Bob Hext, from teaching resources company Crossbow Education, comments:I think the most important thing is to maintain and even increase support to small business so that we can take advantage of the non-EU export opportunities. Particularly to English-speaking countries, which are an important market for UK education companies that Brexit offers. UKTI services in particular must not be restructured to save money.”

David DeLange, from EdTech company 2Simple, comments:The government should offer clear guidance about EU citizen employees. Even if it was not good news, it would be better than uncertainty. Perhaps a chance to start an immigration process for staff who would be eligible to do so if they had been from outside the EU?”

You can download the full report here.

 -ENDS-

All figures are from BESA research undertaken in July-August 2016. Total sample size was 131 UK education suppliers. The survey was carried out online. BESA’s directors and a wide range of members are available for comment. To discuss this story further, contact: Mark Rosser mark@besa.org.uk / +44(0)20 7537 4997

About BESA:

BESA, the British Educational Suppliers Association, is the trade association covering the entirety of the UK educational suppliers sector. It operates on a not-for-profit basis, and is accountable to an Executive Council that is elected by member companies.

It has an 80-year heritage serving the UK education sector, and represents over 300 educational suppliers in the UK, including manufacturers and distributors of equipment, materials, books, consumables, furniture, technology, ICT hardware and EdTech to the education market.

Working closely with UKTI Education, BESA helps take over a hundred companies overseas every year to a wide range of important export markets, from the US to Malaysia and China, providing intelligence briefings, logistical support and often substantial bursaries.

BESA has a Code of Practice to which all members must adhere, along with a stringent membership process, both of which assure schools of a high standard of quality.

For more information, visit: www.besa.org.uk