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Study reveals benefits of international students to the UK

A report reveals convincing evidence of how much the UK gains from international students coming to the country. It shows that the economic benefits of international students outweigh the costs by about ten to one.

The study, jointly published by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and Kaplan International Pathways, carried out a detailed analysis of students who arrived to study in the UK in 2015–16.

The report’s findings

The study comprehensively details just how much international students contribute to the UK economy. The net benefits were calculated to total just over £20 billion, after reducing gross total costs of £2.3 billion.

Unlike many other studies, this report calculates both the gains and costs of international students coming to the UK in order to get an accurate picture.

Economic benefits measured included tuition fee income and its knock-on effects, non-tuition fee expenditure by students and its indirect effects, and spending by students’ visiting family and friends.

Meanwhile, costs include teaching grants and tuition fee support, costs associated with the provision of public services (such as healthcare, housing, social security and defence), and even costs associated with servicing the national debt and diplomatic activities.

Interestingly, certain economic contributions were not considered as part of the study, meaning that the report almost certainly considerably underestimates the full benefits to the UK of international students coming to study.

Some of these contributions include any tax and National Insurance paid by students, longer-term investment and business links that occur, and the wider cultural impact associated with a more diverse population.

The study broke down the overall impact on the British economy by constituency – that is, the geographical area represented by each MP. It found that, out of all of the UK’s 650 constituencies, not a single one experienced a net economic loss from the impact of hosting international students.

If the total figure were distributed evenly across the UK, the net benefit per UK resident would be £310.

While EU students generated a net economic impact of (on average) £68,000 per student, the equivalent figure for non-EU students was £95,000. This means that every 11 non-EU students contribute £1 million to the UK economy.

Reactions to the report

The report provides a powerful argument in favour of maximising the potential of the UK’s higher education sector. Every year, hundreds of thousands of students apply to study at universities in the UK on the strength of their academic reputation.

It was positively received on social media, with a number of industry figures and businesses taking to Twitter to highlight the study.

Linda Cowan, Managing Director of Kaplan International Pathways, also praised the report, and commented on its implications:

This research is different from previous work in a number of important respects. In particular, by calculating the net impact by region and constituency, the study shows that international students bring economic benefits to regions throughout the UK.

“… the study shows that international students bring economic benefits to regions throughout the UK.”

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The report came in as the UK government found itself under increasing pressure to exclude international students from the immigration figures. Linda went on to say:

The challenge now is to ensure the UK provides a compelling and attractive offer as the best place to study. To be successful, we need a bold commitment from Government as it considers the Immigration Bill, to show that the UK welcomes international students more than ever. A key step would be to stop counting students as immigrants in net migration statistics.

To find out more about the effects international students have on the UK – and your own constituency – you can read the report by following the link below.

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