Nadhim Zahawi has praised the UK’s strong ties with Europe in higher education as he met the president of Portugal.
The Education Secretary visited Imperial College London alongside the president of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.
During the visit, they explored the university’s data observatory, where they saw images of the Mars Rover, science laboratories and Imperial’s ocean wave basin – where different waves are simulated as part of research into renewable energy.
Mr Zahawi thanked the president for the visit, adding: “For those of you that don’t know, I am also a fan of Manchester United – of course the great Ronaldo tried to carry us this season but unfortunately, they weren’t able to do it just on their own – here is hoping for next year.”
He said it was an “absolute honour” to be part of the delegation and praised the “incredible work” carried out at Imperial College and said the tour was “incredibly informative, especially for a chemical engineer like myself so you will hear many stories at the dispatch box in days and weeks to come”.
He praised the research collaboration between Portuguese students at Imperial and said international higher education was one of the Government’s priorities.
He added: “I’m extremely proud that almost 2,000 Portuguese nationals currently work in the UK higher education ecosystem and there are over 8,400 Portuguese students studying here in the UK.”
He said that international students bring “fresh ideas and new perspectives to a host country like ours and of course here we want to encourage as many young people as possible some of the benefits of our fantastic higher education”.
Mr Zahawi said the Government’s international HE strategy aimed to increase the number of international students in the UK to 600,000 in 2030, but that this ambition had been met 10 years early, with more than 605,000 students in UK universities in 2020/21.
He wished the president “Feliz dia de Portugal” which was held on June 10 and alluded to the 650-year-anniversary of the Treaty of Tagilde between Portugal and Britain, which he said was the oldest diplomatic alliance in the world.
He said this came at a time when it had “never been so important that countries came together in solidarity and friendship so that we can solve challenges together constructively and I hope peacefully on our continent of Europe”.
Mr de Sousa said Portugal had sent several hundreds “of Cristian Ronaldos to your scientific community and I am sure many of them will help you a lot in your country, and they are the best of our best”.
He said the alliance between the two countries was not “an alliance just of the past but of the future”.
He told the PA news agency: “Science is transnational, it’s global, and in a way in a period of war and of lack of dialogue, of fight between global and regional powers, science is above – that’s so important to have something that is above those wars, building peace and responding to the needs of the global population.”
“That’s the mission of science, of knowledge, of education. Not to create wars but to overcome all the fights and the wars and the disputes in the world.”
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