UK: benefits of international students add £20 bn to economy

400International students are worth about 10 times more to the UK economy than they cost the taxpayer, according to a new report that will add to pressure currently mounting on the country’s government for a shift in policy on the issue.

The analysis, which, unlike most similar studies in the past, looks at the cost of hosting overseas students as well as the benefits, calculates the bill at £2.3 billion, including use of the NHS and other public services.

This is still far less than the benefits, including tuition fees and spending while in the UK, that amount to an estimated £23 billion for one student cohort, according to the report by London Economics for the Higher Education Policy Institute and Kaplan.

The resulting £20.3 billion net impact is, on average, the equivalent of £310 for every resident, the report estimates, with the effects reaching right across the UK, although London tends to see the highest returns. What is more, the economic benefits of international students are felt throughout the entire country, with international students contributing £31.3 million on average per parliamentary constituency.

The study, which analyses at the economic impact of students starting university in 2015-16, across the duration of their studies, also uses census data on the student population to estimate how much money overseas students potentially bring to each of the country’s 650 parliamentary constituencies.

London is a clear winner when it comes to gains from international students. The report shows international students generate £4.64 billion for the UK capital, while contributing £2.44billion to the wider South East economy.

The overwhelming economic benefits of international students to the entire UK exposed by this study prove it would be folly to insist that international students be kept in net migration targets. For the UK economy to benefit fully from the revenue international students bring to universities and their surrounding communities, the UK needs an immigration policy that supports and encourages the free movement of students in and out of the country.

It is also important to remember that these benefits are not just financial. International students bring invaluable diversity to our communities, which has educational and social benefits of its own.


Semptember 2015
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