International Students: Their loss is…well, also our loss.

14 Feb 2018

Policy area: Student accommodation

Do we want to lose £25 billion from UK the economy? No, I didn’t think so!

This is what international students provide to the UK’s annual economy, according to new research from the Higher Educational Policy Institute and Kaplan International Pathways. Theresa May is now under even greater pressure to withdraw international students from immigration figures, with the research outlining that the benefit of international students is “ten times greater than the cost”. These benefits are also felt around the whole of the UK – not just in London and the South of England.

Devolution is regularly on the national agenda, with the government endorsing initiative after initiative seeking to encourage industry into the regions. However, the higher education sector represents an already decentralised industry with world class institutions scattered across the width and breath of the UK.

International students make a significant net economic contribution to the UK economy for each of the 650 parliamentary constituencies – an average of £310 per member of the resident population. Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Oxford, Cambridge, Cardiff, Bristol, Glasgow, Nottingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh are all included in the 20 constituencies receiving the greatest levels of economic benefit from international students. At a time when the UK government is seeking to increase productivity up and down the country, restricting migration of international students does not make sense.

A reduction in the number of international students coming to the UK would also have a detrimental impact on the people currently in the UK and working in this sector. Destination for Education, an organization preparing international students for study at British Universities, currently employs 3,771 people across the UK, providing employment for over 500 people in the North, 300 in Yorkshire and almost 2,000 people in the South East. Real people in real jobs.

Furthermore, the narrative that international students put a strain on resources is not borne out by research. PwC found that only 12% of international students remained in the UK after their studies finished, and of those who entered Britain’s labour market, all earned above the taxable threshold. The same study also found that international students put little to no strain on Britain’s affordable housing market – they often live in university accommodation or private rented accommodation during their studies, paying more than domestic students. Therefore, instead of damaging infrastructure and draining resources, international students provide timely economic boosts and subsequent opportunities for growth and regeneration in local areas. 

Having international students in the UK also improves Britain’s international relations. A 2017 study by the Higher Education Policy Institute, reveals the UK’s higher education sector has educated more world leaders than any other country – among 377 serving heads of state and heads of government, 58 have attended UK universities and colleges generating an astonishing level of “soft power”. PwC has also found that international students, who studied in London, are 60% more likely to do business with the UK because of studying here. Having international students spend part of their formative years living in the UK and engaging with British culture is a long-term asset which enhances the UK’s economic and political influence around the world.

The national, local, economic, social and political benefits of hosting international students in the UK is clear for all too see. Therefore, the BPF will embark on dialogue with the Home Office to outline the importance of retaining international students and the impact on a variety of important sectors, such as student accommodation, higher education, housing, regeneration and development. We endeavour to engineer a solutions-focused discussion with policy-makers to showcase the virtue of international students in the UK.