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International students turbo-charge the region’s economy

September 15, 2021

International university students have added £243m to our region’s economy and are one of the UK’s highest export earners, according to a new report. New analysis of the economic value to the UK of having students from abroad study in the UK found that just one year’s intake of international students is worth £28.8bn to the UK economy.

In the Portsmouth region, including Portsmouth, Gosport, Havant and the Isle of Wight, the value to the economy of international students has been measured at £243m. Portsmouth South ranks 20th in the UK, with the net benefit of international students coming in at £161m, or £1,500 per resident.

With more than 4,000 international students from 150 countries currently study at the University of Portsmouth. The University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Graham Galbraith said the new report reveals “the huge contribution” international students make to the UK.

He said: “We are well aware of the social benefits of having a mixed student body, enriching everyone’s learning, and it’s heartening to see that the financial contribution they also make is so beneficial to the UK’s prosperity.

“It’s vital we all understand and appreciate the immense value of international students. They enrich our communities and bring strong economic benefits. We need to be open and supportive of those that can benefit from the education we offer and welcome and encourage those who come to this wonderful part of our country.”

Today’s report, ‘The costs and benefits of international higher education students to the UK economy’, is published by Universities UK International and the Higher Education Policy Institute, with research from London Economics. It found the benefits of hosting international students – £25.9bn – is close to ten times the cost – £2.9bn, including their use of public services.

The net economic benefit is spread across every part of the UK. For example, the contribution to the UK economy of international students in the 2018/19 intake resident in Sheffield Central is £290m. In Holborn and St Pancras it’s £243m; East Ham, £217m; Cambridge, £214m; and in Cardiff Central, £181m.

The analysis lands as international student numbers at UK universities have been hit by the uncertainty caused by Covid-19. Changes to the tuition fee structure for EU students after Brexit have also resulted in EU student recruitment being 56% lower than last year.

Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International, said: “While there has been a growing realisation of the tremendous social and cultural benefits of international students, this study provides a stark reminder of their financial importance to communities across the UK, economic recovery and the levelling up agenda.

“We now need fresh ideas and stronger momentum to achieve the UK government’s international education strategy target of attracting at least 600,000 international students every year by 2030 and the good this will bring to everyone.”

Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, said: “This report confirms higher education is one of the UK’s greatest export earners. The benefits reach every part of the UK, from Land’s End to John O’Groats. But international students do not just bring financial benefits. They also bring educational benefits by making our campuses more diverse and exciting places to be. To make the most of these benefits, we need to provide a warm welcome, ensure our educational offer remains competitive and help international students secure fulfilling careers after study. The policy environment is, in many respects, more conducive than it was, with the Government gradually becoming more positive about international students. But the current halving in the number of EU students confirms future success cannot be taken for granted.”


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