The ONS explored the international student population in England and Wales using data from the 2021 Census.
The data showed that some 47.1% of EU-born international students were employed, compared with 24.6% of non-EU-born students.
The ONS said that some of this will be explained by EU citizens historically having a right to work in the UK.
A higher proportion of EU-born international students were in employment in England (47.5%), than in Wales (36.7%).
One in three international students were in employment; Eastern European countries had the highest proportions in employment alongside studying (Romania, 73.9%; Bulgaria, 62.3%, Poland, 56.7% and Lithuania, 56.0%).
“I suspect it’s right that this is a legacy issue to do with EU rights. We should be able to test that in our own student experience results in due course,” Nick Hillman, director of HEPI, told The PIE.
Universities UK International noted that while the employment rates between EU and non-EU students differ significantly, the unemployment rates show less difference according to the ONS data (8.3% for EU vs 11.5% for non-EU).
Such data would suggest that the proportion of non-EU students who are actively looking for work is not that much greater than the proportion of EU students doing so.
The fact that a larger proportion of non-EU students are economically inactive, i.e. not in employment or actively looking for a job, than EU students may be explained by several factors.
For example, non-EU students are more likely to be on one-year masters programs than their EU counterparts.
These programs can be more intensive and leave less time for part time work alongside studies. EU students are more likely to be undergraduates.
“The census is a valuable data source and contributes to our understanding about the make-up of the international student population in the UK, alongside other complementary data sources such as the Home Office visa data and the HESA student record,” a UUKi spokesperson told The PIE News.
The ONS report showed that there were 373,600 non-UK-born, non-UK passport holding international students in England and Wales at the time of Census 2021.
The number of non-UK domiciled full-time higher education students estimated as enrolled by HESA for the academic year 2020 to 2021 was 562,995, as seen in HESA’s Higher Education Student Statistics.
This number is far larger than the estimate of the population size produced using census data (373,600) – reasons for this included an increase in the number of first year students not at term-time accommodation in the 2020-2021 academic year.