Lords Committee on Soft Power accepts ACU evidence

Lords Committee on Soft Power accepts ACU evidence

Published on 09 December 2013

Evidence provided by ACU to the House of Lords Select Committee on Soft Power and the UK’s Influence has been published.

Appointed in May 2013, the Select Committee is tasked with examining the use of soft power in furthering the UK’s global influence and interests. The ACU, currently running the UK government’s three main scholarship schemes, supplied written evidence detailing how academic activity – particularly government-funded scholarships – can play a role in soft diplomacy.

Despite emphasising that generating influence for the UK – or indeed for any other country – is not its primary raison d’etre, the ACU presented evidence that suggests recipients of Chevening, Commonwealth and Marshall scholarships do ‘have significant potential to influence the reputation of the UK’.

Further evidence presented to the Committee (in the form of a survey of former Commonwealth scholars) revealed that 45% of respondents had influenced government policy in their home countries, and 25% had held public office, indicating that holders of prestigious UK scholarships possess the potential to ascend to positions of influence on returning home. Coupled with another survey demonstrating that former Marshall scholars exhibit a clear willingness to maintain connections with the UK for business and/or social reasons, the arguments for the role of academic activity in furthering soft diplomacy objectives have some foundations in solid anecdotal and empirical data.

The ACU’s written evidence also included policy recommendations that could help to increase the positive impact that scholarships have on the UK. Although total investment from government is ‘substantial’, funding 2,500 individuals annually, the ACU observed that government funding needs to be maintained at levels that enable the UK to remain competitive in its attempts to attract the brightest and best students from around the world.

Read the ACU’s written evidence in full: Universities, scholarships and soft power (pdf)

Download the Committee’s full publication: Soft Power and the UK’s Influence - Evidence (pdf)