The costs and benefits of international higher education students to the UK economy report found that international students add a net economic benefit of £25.9bn across every part of the UK, along with a total £2.9bn spend on the use of public services.
The research was compiled by London Economics, and published by the Higher Education Policy Institute and Universities UK International.
“This report confirms higher education is one of the UK’s greatest export earners”
The estimated net economic impact by a ‘typical’ EU-domiciled student in 2018/19 was £71,000 and £102,000 per non-EU domiciled student.
“This report confirms higher education is one of the UK’s greatest export earners,” said HEPI director Nick Hillman. “The benefits reach every part of the UK, from Land’s End to John O’Groats.”
The paper breaks down international students’ contributions in the UK’s 650 parliamentary constituencies. International students in Sheffield, Nottingham, London, Cardiff, Glasgow and Newcastle are among those to deliver the greatest financial contributions, the paper noted.
International students in the 2018/19 intake residing in Sheffield Central added £290 million, Nottingham South £261m, Holborn and St Pancras £243m, Newcastle upon Tyne East £240m, East Ham £217m, Cambridge £214m, Cardiff Central £181m and Glasgow Central £171m.
At the other end of the list of constituencies, the research found that, with fewer than 45 international students, Orkney and Shetland and Nah-Eileanan An Iar, both in Scotland, still gained £6m and £5m respectively from international students.
A previous 2018 report, published by the HEPI and Kaplan International Pathways, found international students’ economic benefits to the UK amounted to £22.6bn.
“But international students do not just bring financial benefits,” Hillman continued. “They also bring educational benefits by making our campuses more diverse and exciting places to be.”
There has been a growing realisation of the tremendous social and cultural benefits of international students, director of UUKi Vivienne Stern added.
“This study provides a stark reminder of their financial importance to communities across the UK, economic recovery and the levelling up agenda.
“”We now need fresh ideas and stronger momentum to achieve the UK government’s international education strategy target”
“We now need fresh ideas and stronger momentum to achieve the UK government’s international education strategy target of attracting at least 600,000 international students every year by 2030 and the good this will bring to everyone.”
While recent policy changes have created a more conducive environment in many respects, including the Graduate visa route, the UK still need to “provide a warm welcome, ensure our educational offer remains competitive and help international students secure fulfilling careers after study”, Hillman added.
However, the current halving in the number of EU students “confirms future success cannot be taken for granted”, he said.
Undergraduate degree course students from the EU were 56% lower in early August 2021 than at the same time in 2020, following changes to the tuition fee structure for EU students after Brexit.
Earlier in September, a UUKi report called for the government to promote the UK as a study destination by ensuring the success of the new Graduate route, reducing the financial barriers for international students, and supporting the improvement of English language ability.
“After Brexit and the pandemic, the long-term challenges facing the UK economy have never been greater,” stated Gavan Conlon, partner at London Economics.
“Built on a world-class higher education sector, international students represent a huge growth opportunity to the UK economy. Every effort should be made by the UK government to further develop this crucial export market.”
“Every effort should be made by the UK government to further develop this crucial export market”
In the most recent UCAS undergraduate data, “a record 46,610 students from outside the EU are about to start an undergraduate degree in the UK, 5% more than in 2020 and continuing over a decade of increases”, added UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant.
Later in September, UCAS will launch a new platform for international students, “giving them everything they need to make an informed decision about studying in the UK in one place”, she added.
“It will support aims of the international education strategy, making the country stand out as an accessible destination for international students and help universities and colleges grow and diversify the range of applications they receive, as we focus particularly on new and emerging international markets.”