International students help contribute millions to regional economy

Fri 26 May, 2023
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A new report published by Universities UK International (UUKi), the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and Kaplan International Pathways, in collaboration with London Economics, has unveiled the economic benefits that international students bring to Bedfordshire and across the East of England.

According to the latest ‘Costs and benefits of international higher education students to the UK’ study, the East of England – where the University of Bedfordshire is based – is proudly home to 24,835 international students who economically contribute approximately £560 per citizen.

In total, 381,000 first year international students enrolled into UK universities in 2021/22, highlighting the global appeal of the country’s higher education institutions and cementing the UK as one of the leading destinations for international students.

Of these first year international students 3,030 are based in Bedfordshire, contributing a NET impact of over £280m to the region’s economy – £129.7m of which is contributed to Luton and £43.5m to Bedford alone.

Adrian Dutch, Pro Vice Chancellor for International at the University of Bedfordshire, commented: “Our University is a diverse institution with students hailing from all across the globe, bringing with them not just not just economical value to the campus towns and wider region, but also cultural and social benefits – opening our UK-based students’ eyes and minds to the world beyond our borders! International students offer so much to our local communities, and the economic aspect just reinforces the importance of these overseas study opportunities.”

The report, which was commissioned to explore the impact of international students to the UK economy, reveals economic benefits have risen from £31.3bn to £41.9bn between 2018/19 and 2021/22 – an increase of 34%. The data also confirms that – even when accounting for the impact on public services (estimated at £4.4 billion) – the economic benefits of UK universities hosting international students significantly outweigh the costs with a total NET benefit of £37.4 billion. Data from the report indicates that every 11 non-EU students generate £1m worth of NET economic impact for the UK economy. 

Jamie Arrowsmith, Director of Universities UK International said: “This report further highlights the positive contribution that international students make to the UK. We should be proud that our universities continue to attract students from all over the world. It is vital that the UK remains an open and welcoming destination for international students, and that their contribution is recognised and valued.”

Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI added: “International students underpin the success of universities across the UK. They diversify our campuses, cross-subsidise our research and spend lots of money with UK businesses, before either going home with warm feelings about the UK or staying here and contributing to the UK economy. The number of international students has been rising fast, reflecting the attractiveness of the UK to those who want to better themselves through education, and in spite of mixed messages from policymakers. If there are to be further changes to the rules on international students, then it is vital that they are based on evidence rather than whim, so this report is designed to strengthen the existing evidence base.”


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