International students are worth £28.8bn to the UK

New analysis shows that one year’s intake of incoming international students is worth £28.8bn to the UK economy.

International students coming to the UK to study at university - Universities UK International | Higher Education Policy Institute | PBSA News

A new report shows the benefits of international students – with one year’s intake worth £28.8bn to the UK economy. The report – named ‘The costs and benefits of international higher education students to the UK economy’ – has been published by Universities UK International (UUKi) and the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) – and includes research from London Economics. The analysis reveals that the benefits of hosting international students significantly outweighs the costs of international students, including their use of public services – which are put at £2.9bn. 

“Kaplan welcomes this important update to the original work we published with HEPI and London Economics on the net economic impact of international higher education students in the UK. This new report shows important increases in student numbers and the net benefit they bring. At a time of worrying socio-political instability around the world, welcoming the next generation of international students to the UK to gain the important skills they will need in the coming years has never been more important.”

Linda Cowan, Managing Director, Kaplan International Pathways

The analysis comes as international student numbers at UK universities have been hit by the uncertainty caused by Covid-19 – as well as changes to the tuition fee structure for EU students after Brexit. EU student acceptances to undergraduate degree courses were 56% lower in early August 2021 compared to the same time last year.

“This report confirms higher education is one of the UK’s greatest export earners. The benefits reach every part of the UK, from Land’s End to John O’Groats. But international students do not just bring financial benefits. They also bring educational benefits by making our campuses more diverse and exciting places to be.

“To make the most of these benefits, we need to provide a warm welcome, ensure our educational offer remains competitive and help international students secure fulfilling careers after study. The policy environment is, in many respects, more conducive than it was, with the Government gradually becoming more positive about international students. But the current halving in the number of EU students confirms future success cannot be taken for granted.”

Nick Hillman, Director, HEPI

The net economic benefit of £25.9bn is spread across the UK and the report provides the results for each of the 650 Westminster constituencies. For example, the contribution to the UK economy of international students in the 2018/19 intake resident in Sheffield Central is £290m. Other notable results include 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).

“The net economic impact associated with the 2018/19 cohort of international students stood at £25.9bn, with substantial benefits accrued throughout every region of the UK. After Brexit and the pandemic, the long-term challenges facing the UK economy have never been greater. 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.”

Dr Gavan Conlon, Partner, London Economics

Universities UK International and HEPI are calling for more to be done to promote the UK as a welcoming, diverse and accessible study destination. This could include ensuring the success of the new Graduate route, reducing the financial barriers for international students, and supporting the improvement of English language ability.

“While there has been a growing realisation of the tremendous social and cultural benefits of international students, 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 of attracting at least 600,000 international students every year by 2030 and the good this will bring to everyone.”

Vivienne Stern, Director, Universities UK International