Overseas students ‘boost UK economy by £25 billion’

Overseas students generate more than £25 billion for the UK economy, with their spending supporting 206,000 jobs in British university towns and cities, according to a new analysis.

university building students
The report from consultants Oxford Economics, which suggests a much greater contribution to the UK economy than previously estimated, comes at a time when ministers have reportedly put on hold plans to put out for consultation proposals that would lead to a cap being imposed on the number of international students some universities could sign up.Universities UK – higher education's lobby group – commissioned the Oxford Economics analysis, which is based on 2014-15 statistics when there were 437,000 international students studying in the UK, representing 19 per cent of all students registered at UK universities.

The impact of money spent off campus

It takes into account not only money spent directly by overseas students on fees and on supporting themselves on campus, but also the amount they spent on living and socialising away from campus on such things as transport, culture, sport and recreation.It also takes into account amounts spent by family and friends from abroad when they come to Britain to visit students.

International students create an 'enormous economic contribution'

Dame Julia Goodfellow, vice-chancellor of the University of Kent and president of Universities UK said the analysis illustrated the “enormous economic contribution” international students were making to British jobs and communities.She added, “The spending of international students and their visitors now provides a major export boost for the UK economy. This is a potential growth area and there is scope for the UK to welcome more qualified international students and build on this success. To do this, we must present a welcoming climate for genuine international students and ensure that visa and immigration rules are proportionate and communicated appropriately. This will be even more important as the UK looks to enhance its place in the world post-Brexit.”

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A government spokesman said, “EU and international students, staff and researchers make an important contribution to our higher education sector and we want that to continue. The UK has a long established system that supports and attracts global talent, at all stages of their career. We will continue to attract the best and brightest to work or study in Britain, but that process must be managed properly so that our immigration system serves the national interest.“The UK remains one of the most popular destinations for students globally and we want this to continue, which is why there are no plans to cap the number of international students who can come to study in the UK.”

Read the Oxford Economics report on the Universities UK website.

Biggest decline amongst students from SE Asia

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that in 2015-16 there had been a fall of 41,000 in the number of overseas students in the UK, with the biggest decline registered among students from SE Asia. China accounts for the largest number of international students in Britain, followed by those from the US and India.“There has been a statistically significant decrease in non-EU long-term students immigrating to the UK while a small increase was seen in the number of study visas issued,” said Nicola White, head of International Migration Statistics at the ONS.Prof Catherine Barnard, from the University of Cambridge, also told a committee of MPs last month that her own university had seen a 14 per cent drop in applications this year from EU students and warned of the risk of a perceived ‘anti-immigrant sentiment’ since the Brexit vote.

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