OXFORD Economics, a financial advisory firm partnered with Oxford University, has released the results of a study on the impact of international students in the UK. In the 2014-15 academic year, the direct and indirect contribution of these students is estimated to have been £25.8 billion (€29.7 billion).
This figure averages at approximately £56,000 per capita. It is also estimated that up to 206,000 British jobs depend on international students. The report was commissioned by Universities UK, an advocacy organisation for third-level institutions.
Tuition fees only account for one-fifth of the £25 billion, as international students, numbering 437,000 and making up one-fifth of all third level students, also spend substantial sums on accommodation and other living costs. Not only do they as individuals contribute to the economy, but visiting families significantly contribute to tourist numbers, particularly families of EU students.
The economic benefits brought by international students is not confined to London alone, instead being distributed across university towns throughout the UK. EU students make up 28% of all international students and currently pay the same fees as UK natives. Following last year’s Brexit referendum, political analysts expect that most EU students will still be allowed into the UK, but will be required to pay the higher non-EU fees.
Half of the UK’s third-level institutions have already seen drops in international students of up to 50% under the current Conservative government since they first came into power in 2010. The Home Office has actively sought to tighten visa restrictions for incoming non-EU students, which will be extended to all students from outside the UK.
There are also fears that the perceived anti-immigration atmosphere in the UK will dissuade international students from considering British universities, having a knock-on effect to the country’s economy. Dame Julia Goodfellow, president of Universities UK, stated that “we must present a welcoming climate for international students and ensure that visa and immigration rules are proportionate and communicated appropriately”.