The report, The costs and benefits of international higher education students to the UK economy, published today (Thursday 9 September 2021) by Universities UK International (UUKi) and the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), with research from London Economics, finds the benefits of hosting international students significantly outweighs the costs.
The net economic benefit of £25.9 billion is spread across every part of the UK and the report provides the results for every one of the 650 Westminster constituencies.
The contribution to the UK economy of international students in the 2018/19 intake resident in Sheffield Central is £290 million, making it the top constituency for net economic impact in the UK. This means the area is financially better off by £2,520 per person on average because of international students.
Professor Sir Chris Husbands, Sheffield Hallam University Vice-Chancellor, said: “This timely report highlights what we in universities have always known – that international students bring huge benefits, not just to the local economy but also to the social fabric of our universities and local community more broadly.
“The global pandemic restrained our capacity to welcome international students, but now as the world reopens, it is vital that we promote and encourage international students to come back to our world-leading universities, both at a local level but also at a national policy level through appropriate schemes and funding incentives.”
Professor Koen Lamberts, President and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sheffield, said: “We are very proud that Sheffield is renowned for being an inclusive and welcoming city. This report reflects the extensive contribution that our international students make, not only to our University but to the wider community.
“Our global reputation for teaching and research attracts more than 7,000 international students from over 150 countries. During their time at university, international students play a vital role working on placements in local hospitals and businesses, volunteering for more than 140 Sheffield charities and schools and also enriching the cultural life of the city.”
The analysis lands as international student numbers at UK universities have been hit by the uncertainty caused by Covid-19 and changes to the tuition fee structure for EU students after Brexit – EU student acceptances to undergraduate degree courses were 56 per cent lower in early August 2021 than at the same time last year.
UUKi 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.
Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International, said: “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.”
Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, said: “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.”