The economic and cultural contribution of international students to the UK was an overarching theme, together with the call to remove students from the net migration figures.
“Figures for international student migration should be reported separately to other migration types,” said GuildHE, an association of universities and further education colleges.
The Russell Group pointed out that every seven non-UK undergraduates studying at a Russell Group university generate £1 million benefit to the UK economy.
In its submission, MillionPlus called on the government to reform the current visa system, take international students out of the net migration figures and re-introduce a post-study work visa scheme.
“The evidence is overwhelmingly clear that overseas students are a tremendous asset to our world-leading university sector and to the rich tapestry of life in the UK,” added Greg Walker MillionPlus chief executive.
“Figures for international student migration should be reported separately to other migration types”
Aston University, among others, called on the government to safeguard the UK’s position as a premier destination by ensuring “the UK’s student and post-study work visas are attractive compared to our international competitors”.
Many organisations drew on “extensive and widely accepted research and evidence” such as the recent HEPI/Kaplan report to demonstrate the economic value of international students.
But for UKCISA the latest analysis by HEPI is a “conservative estimate”, as it does not take into account income from independent schools, English language or further education colleges.
Others pointed out that international students sustain entire courses.
STEM subjects, business, finance and management courses would be “at risk” without international students, the Russell Group has warned.
“Overseas students are a tremendous asset to our world-leading university sector and to the rich tapestry of life”
GuildHE quoted research by the NUS which showed that a quarter of students felt their course would not be viable without international students.
Across GuildHE’s member institutions, 30% of postgraduate students are from outside the UK; at certain institutions, this figure is as high as 70%.
Several submissions also highlight the contribution of international staff to the UK.
Universities Scotland proclaimed that Scotland’s universities are “truly global organisations”, while The Royal Society of Edinburgh pointed to foreign nationals in engineering and technology, who account for 46% of academic staff in Scotland and 42% in the UK as a whole.
Most submissions called on the government to reinstate post-study work rights – their removal has led to a decrease of diversity on campus, warned The Russell Group.
With regards to EU students specifically, GuildHE referred to an analysis by London Economics suggesting that the harmonisation of EU with other international student fees would cost UK higher education institutions around £40 million.
Both GuildHE and Universities Scotland said they foresee a drop in the number of EU students post-Brexit.
“UK immigration policy needs to be underpinned by accurate data”
The Royal Society of Edinburgh pointed out that due to the “reputational damage” caused by Brexit, EU student numbers have already seen a 7% decrease, as supported by the most recent UCAS figures.
Others argued that changes in immigration policy affecting international students act as a barrier to prospective students considering the UK as a study destination – but have not been based on solid evidence.
GuildHE mentioned a 2017 report saying that “there is no evidence of a major issue of non-EU students overstaying their entitlement to stay”, and The Royal Society of Edinburgh added: “UK immigration policy needs to be underpinned by accurate data”.
Although their submission was not made public, Universities UK told The PIE News that their response was supported by more than 45 case studies from 32 universities across the UK “highlighting the significant impact of non-UK students from volunteering through to soft power.”
UUK called on the government not only to improve post-study work opportunities, but also to initiate a “significant and sustained” international campaign to counteract “the less than welcoming impression of recent years” and encourage international students to choose the UK.
Claudia Civinini provided additional reporting for this article.