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International students: a £2.3 billion British success story

New research from London First and PwC shows international students are a boon to the UK, bringing a net benefit of £2.3 billion to the UK economy from London universities alone.

The report, London Calling: International students’ contribution to Britain’s economic growth, concludes that the capital’s higher education system is an export success story, with 92 per cent of students saying they would recommend studying in the UK to their friends and family.

The survey of current and alumni students from across London’s universities found that 60 per cent of international students are more likely to do business with the UK as a result of studying here.

It dismisses the myth that international students are a burden on public services, such as the NHS. Instead, they were shown to contribute a total of £2.8 billion through the spending they bring to the country, while only consuming £540 million in public spending.

You can see how the Financial Times covers the report here.

Calling on Government

However, more than a third of students found that Britain’s immigration system, particularly its complexity, negatively affected their experience of studying here.

A vast majority of students also commented that the system made it difficult to secure work in the UK after they had completed their studies.

The report calls for the government to:

  • Use hard data when setting immigration targets: there is a real opportunity to develop better data collection on migration so that we can see the real facts on inward and outward flows, the report says.
  • Classify students as temporary visitors not migrants: we should follow the lead of other countries such as Canada and Australia and stop classifying students as immigrants. They are here for a short time only and by choosing to study in the UK, they are contributing to jobs, growth and cultural understanding in this country.
  • Create an environment where British-educated overseas talent is valued as an asset rather than treated as a liability: the government should reinstate the automatic option or make it easier for international students to work here for a few years after graduation; this would be good for UK universities, good for UK business, and good for Britain’s long-term relations with the global business community when these graduates return to their home countries.

Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of London First, said:

“International students are made to feel unwelcome because of anti-immigration rhetoric – and the fact that they are currently included in the government’s net migration target. But students’ expenditure here is a modern-day export: they pay substantial fees and contribute significantly in consumer spending.

“As a matter of priority, our new government should follow the lead of Australia and Canada and reclassify international students as temporary visitors, not migrants. It makes no sense to imply through classification and rhetoric that they are unwelcome, which is harming our universities’ abilities to sell education to talented students around the world.”

Julia Onslow-Cole, Head of Global Immigration at PwC, said:

“While politicians recognise the importance of international students, there has been considerable debate over the economic value.  This is the first study to quantify the benefits of student migration.  We need more hard data like this to inform immigration policies and targets.

“The £2.3bn benefit of international students illustrates there is a huge amount at stake.”

For more detail, please contact Mark Hilton: mhilton@londonfirst.co.uk

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