The group of leaders came together at Sheffield’s Winter Gardens to launch a statement of support, to reiterate that the city welcomes students from across the world.
The statement, which is also supported by the students’ unions of both universities, outlines the positive impact international students have on the region culturally, socially and economically.
It has been launched today (Tuesday 26 September) to coincide with the next phase of the #WeAreInternational campaign which was co-founded by the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Students' Union in 2013 and is now led by the Universities UK International and the UK Council for International Student Affairs.
Sheffield is one of the UK cities that benefits most from international students. In economic terms, international students from the 2021/22 cohort brought a net economic benefit of £516.8 million across all constituencies in Sheffield. The economic impact of international students is visible across Sheffield businesses. International students often live near Sheffield City Centre and are customers for restaurants, shops, taxis and other organisations.
Social and cultural vibrancy
More importantly, international students enrich the social and cultural vibrancy of Sheffield and beyond and act as global ambassadors for the city, the region and its people.
Britain’s universities have long been considered as an important UK export. The 2019 international students strategy set out the government's ambition to increase the total number of international students choosing to study in the UK to 600,000 by 2030. However, in recent years, there have been calls to add restrictions to international student visas as part of an approach to lower UK immigration.
Leading voices in the UK higher education sector have warned that restricting international student numbers would hold back economic growth and the levelling up agenda across regions, impact the quality of education that both domestic and international students benefit from, and reduce the funding available for universities to educate UK students and undertake world-class research.
Every year, students from more than 150 countries choose to make Sheffield their home as they study at the two universities. Approximately 10,100 international students study at the University of Sheffield, whilst 6,300 study at Sheffield Hallam.
Sheffield Central Labour MP Paul Blomfield said:
“I’ve been pleased to work with our two universities in securing policies which have increased international student recruitment. Thousands of local jobs have been created as numbers have grown, and our international graduates become great ambassadors for Sheffield.”
University of Sheffield Vice-Chancellor and Chair of the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), Professor Koen Lamberts said:
“We are proud that students from across the world choose to study in Sheffield, and this statement sends a clear message that our city welcomes them. Our international students volunteer for countless charities and organisations, support local businesses and work in our hospitals. They bring a real vibrancy to our campuses and city, sharing knowledge and perspectives that enrich everyone's experiences.
“Most international students join our community for a short period of time and return to their home countries when they have completed their studies. We are keen for the UK government to recognise this and remove international students from the highly debated net migration figure.
“The University founded the #WeAreInternational campaign 10 years ago, not only to celebrate the impact of international students on our campus, but to advocate for the benefits they bring to communities across the UK. We will continue to do so.”
Sheffield Hallam University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Chris Husbands said:
“International students bring huge benefits to Sheffield, not just to the local economy but also to the social fabric of our universities and the diversity of our local community. It is vital that we promote and encourage international students to come to our world-leading universities, and extend a warm welcome to our vibrant city, which is a fantastic place to live and learn.”
Sheffield Hallam University Students’ Union President Abiola Fasipe and International Students’ Officer Emmanuel Owusu Takyi said:
“As international students ourselves we would like to show solidarity with our fellow international students. We cannot speak highly enough about the broad benefits international students bring both locally and nationally. We would like to signal to our current worldwide community in Sheffield and those planning to study here that they are an integral part of the universities and city infrastructure and we are ready to support them in achieving an awesome academic experience.”
University of Sheffield Students’ Union President, Lily Byrne and International and Community Officer, Derick Liew, said:
“Being part of a diverse student community is one of the aspects we’ve loved about our University experience. Our international community of students encourages compassion, and gives students the opportunity to learn about different world views and understand cultures from across the world, all while living right here in Sheffield. It’s essential that international students are encouraged to study in the UK and feel valued and supported throughout their time in this country.”
Recent research by Universities UK, the body that represents higher education across the UK, found that in the 2021/22 academic year international students contributed £41.9bn to the UK economy.
According to the report, on average, each of the 650 parliamentary constituencies in the UK is £58m better off because of international students – equivalent to approximately £560 per citizen.
Read the full statement and all its signatories.