Nadhim Zahawi hailed the UK’s close links with Europe in higher education when meeting 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 from the Mars Rover, science labs and Imperial’s ocean wave basin – where different waves are simulated in the research on renewable energies.
Mr Zahawi thanked the chairman for the visit, adding: “For those of you who don’t know, I’m also a Manchester United fan – of course the great Ronaldo tried to wear us down this season but unfortunately , they weren’t able to do it on their own – here’s hoping for next year.
He said it was an “absolute honour” to be part of the delegation and praised the “incredible work” being done at Imperial College and said the visit was “incredibly educational, especially for a chemical engineer like me, so you will be hearing a lot of stories at the shipping box in the 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 am extremely proud that almost 2,000 Portuguese nationals are currently working in the UK higher education ecosystem and that there are over 8,400 Portuguese students studying here in the UK.”
He said international students bring “new ideas and perspectives to a host country like ours and of course here we want to encourage as many young people as possible to some of the benefits of our fantastic higher education”.
Mr Zahawi said the government’s international higher education strategy aimed to increase the number of international students in the UK to 600,000 by 2030, but that ambition had been met 10 years earlier, with more than 605 000 students in UK universities in 2020/21.
He wished the President “Feliz dia de Portugal” held on June 10 and alluded to the 650th anniversary of the Treaty of Tagilde between Portugal and Britain, which he said was the oldest diplomatic alliance in the world.
He said it came at a time when it had “never been more important for countries to come together in solidarity and friendship so that we can resolve challenges together constructively and, I hope, peacefully. on our European continent”.
Mr de Sousa said Portugal had sent several hundred “Cristian Ronaldos to your scientific community and I’m 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 of the past but of the future”.
He told the PA news agency: “Science is transnational, it is global, and in a way in a time of war and lack of dialogue, of struggle between global and regional powers, science is at the above – it’s so important to have something that is above these wars, building peace and meeting the needs of the world population.
“This is the mission of science, of knowledge, of education. Not to create wars but to overcome all the fights and wars and disputes in the world.