International students bring in £2.8billion to UK

An analysis by business lobby London First and consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, shows the costs and benefits of international students studying in the capital amidst the continuous immigration debate.

The report says the overall contribution exceeds the £2bn mark while the cost of providing public services to these students stands at £540m.

Over a third of students questioned for the purpose of the study expressed negativity and concerns over their experience while studying in the UK. They said landing a job post-education is difficult and feel other countries are more welcoming of immigrants than the UK.

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.”

The report calls for a “proper debate about creating an immigration regime that welcomes those who contribute economically to our country” and supports recent appeals for the removal of international students from migration targets. Current immigration rules state students intending on remaining in the UK after completing their studies must work for a single employer and earn a minimum of £20,800.

Head of global immigration at PwC, Julia Onslow-Cole 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.”

The UK immigration minister, James Brokenshire responded to the findings saying: “The independent Office for National Statistics uses the United Nations definition of net migration – just like all of our international competitors – which includes students.

“And it is right to do so. All immigrants who are in the UK have an impact on our communities, on housing and on our public services. The latest ONS estimate shows that while 133,000 non-EU students came to Britain in the last year only around 48,000 left the country – a gap of 85,000.

“The government will pursue further reforms to tackle abuse while continuing to attract the brightest and the best to our world-class universities. The latest figures show this strategy is working – university applications from overseas students are up by 18% since 2010, with applications to our world-leading Russell Group institutions up 30%.”