As the Theresa May government plans to launch a consultation to further curb the numbers of Indian and other non-EU students, new research published on Monday showed they contribute nearly £26 billion to Britain’s economy and support more than 200,000 jobs.
The scale of the international student economy in the study for Universities UK (UUK) – the umbrella body of all British universities – is considerably more than a previous estimate of their worth of £11 billion, putting pressure on the government to delay or cancel its plans.
Referring to the dwindling numbers of Indian students coming to Britain – from 39,090 in 2010-11 to 16,745 in 2015-16 – a senior Indian functionary told Hindustan Times: “It is Britain that loses out. Our students have many options in the US, Australia and Canada. We have stopped harping about student visas.”
UUK ad other stakeholders have been demanding that the British government remove international students from official net migration statistics since the vast majority of them return home after completing studies. The demand has so far been rejected.
The UUK analysis showed that in 2014–15, on-and off-campus spending by international students and their visitors generated a knock-on impact of £25.8 billion in Britain’s gross output. They supported 206,600 jobs across the country.
Britain was estimated to be the second most popular destination for international students, after the US, in 2014-15 and attracted 437,000 international students. Their economic impact is noted at the regional and local levels.
UUK president Julia Goodfellow said: "The spending of international students and their visitors now provides a major export boost for the UK economy. This is not something limited to London or to one or two big cities, but to towns and cities across the UK.
"While this report focuses on economic impact, it is important to remember that international students also enrich our campuses and the experience of UK students, both academically and culturally. Many return home having built strong professional and personal links here that provide long-term ‘soft power' benefits for the UK.”
Goodfellow said the government must “present a welcoming climate” for genuine international students and ensure that visa and immigration rules are proportionate and communicated appropriately.
“This will be even more important as the UK looks to enhance its place in the world post-Brexit," she said.