The HE Bite: 12th January – Let’s settle the debate on the economic benefit of international students, once and for all

The HE Bite: 12th January – Let’s settle the debate on the economic benefit of international students, once and for all

The Higher Education Policy Institute, Kaplan International Pathways, and London Economics teamed up to measure the economic benefits of international students, in the UK, at a regional level.

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As pressure mounts on Theresa May to remove international students from the net immigration cap, HEPI releases a new report that highlights a £20 billion international student contribution to the UK economy.

A few weeks ago, we covered the HEPI paper which focused on the benefits of international students to UK research outputs. This newest report moves beyond research outputs and looks at the total costs (to taxpayers) of 231,065 international students in the 2015/26 academic year.

The report also moves beyond analysis at the national level and looks specifically at benefits and costs associated with the university location. The result is a nuanced analysis that provides meaningful insight on the impact of international students to regional economies. The economic benefit is felt beyond big cities, such as London.


*Source: London Economics analysis found in the HEPI report

The report also breaks down benefits and costs by parliamentary constituency.  It found that 19 of the top 20 constituencies benefiting the most from international students are held by the Labour Party. Alternatively, representation across the 20 constituencies with the lowest net economic benefit are held by a diverse range of political parties. It has been hypothesised that these political alignments can impact political support by party representatives at the regional level.

The report uses robust, measurable, and consistent data (teaching grants, tuition fees, tourism from family, to name a few) and avoids analysis of data that is subjective. As a result, while costs are quite easy to scope, the cultural benefits of international students cannot be measured in this analysis. It seems the methodology is intended to reduce any claims of bias in favour of international students. The report leaves out less measurable benefits, such as long-term investments in the UK, or future trade links generated by international students. This point is driven home in the conclusion:

“Figures have been produced before on the economic benefits of international students. But they have not always been accepted in Whitehall – particularly within the Home Office – because they have ignored the costs associated with educating and hosting people from other countries. This report rectifies that, and proves beyond doubt that the costs are modest and hugely outweighed by the benefits.”

Click here to read the full report. 

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