The economic impact of international students

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The economic impact of international students
Young graduates students group standing in front of university building on graduation day

The internalisation of higher education has led to an increasing number of students considering to pursue a higher education abroad. The United Kingdom is currently the second most popular destination for international students after the United States.

While this report places emphasis on the economic benefits of international students, it is important to note that these students also add value to both the experience of UK students and the nation’s global soft power. British students benefit from establishing a global network and an understanding of other cultures that prepares them for a dynamic global labor market.

Over half of the domestic students who participated in a recent survey revealed that studying next to international students was a useful preparation for working in a global environment and the same proportion said it gave them a better worldview.

Summary

In 2014-15, some 437,000 international students (EU and non-EU) made up 19 percent of all students enrolled in UK universities. The total expenditure undertaken by these individuals helps create addition economic activity in the economy.

In 2014-15:

  • On- and off-campus spending by international students and their visitors generated £25.8 billion in gross output for the UK economy.
  • This activity contributed £13.8 billion gross value added (GVA) to UK GDP.
  • On- and off-campus spending by international students and their visitors supports jobs all over Britain, supporting 206,600 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs nationally.
  • International students are good for the British economy as a whole, being responsible for £10.8 billion of UK export earnings.
  • Spending by international students outside of university fees and accommodation (ie ‘off-campus’ spending) amounted to £5.4 billion.
  • International students also boost other British industries, for example adding £750 million to the UK transport industry and £690 million to the retail industry.
  • The economic activity and employment sustained by international students’ off-campus spending generated £1 billion in tax revenues. This is the equivalent to the salaries of 31,700 nurses or 25,000 police officers.

This national impact is also reflected at a regional and local level, providing a fundamental foothold for the government’s industrial strategy and contributing to the nation’s economic growth. For example, in the North West of England, international students’ off-campus expenditure was £458 million in 2014–15, generating a £281 million GVA contribution to local GDP and 3,995 full-time jobs.

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Join us at the upcoming QS in conversation held from 7-9 Feb 2018 in London as we discuss the topic on “University Rankings and International Migrant Scholars”.