The United Kingdom (UK) is currently the second most popular destination for international students after the United States (US)! International students generate substantial economic and cultural benefits for local communities through UK education.
A recent briefing report by Universities UK on the economic impact of international students obtaining UK education provides statistics for 2014-2015. It highlights the contribution international students make to the national gross domestic product (GDP) and UK’s export earnings. Moreover, it makes a strong case for the benefits of studying abroad.
While reports like these focus on economic benefits, international students contribute in other ways too. They add value to the experience of local British students and strengthen the country’s diplomatic efforts worldwide. A recent survey found that three-quarters of domestic students say that studying alongside international students was a useful preparation. Additionally, it gave them a better worldview for working in a global environment.
According to the Universities UK Education briefing report , 437,000 international students (EU and non-EU) made up 19 percent of all students registered at UK universities in 2014-2015. On- and off-campus spending by international students and their visitors generated £25.8 billion in gross output for the UK economy.
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The study found that international students also help boost other British industries. For example, adding £1.2 billion to the UK transport industry and £750 million to the retail industry. The economic activity and employment sustained by international students’ off-campus spending generated £1 billion in tax revenues. This is the equivalent to the salaries of 31,700 nurses or 25,000 police officers in the country.
Other benefits like the growing number of international visitors are also evident. Visitors to international students in the UK spent an estimated £520 million in 2014-2015. This expenditure directly goes to sectors like transportation, hotels, hospitality, recreation, and sports. Furthermore, the study shows that this spending is not limited to major cities in the UK. It also had a significant impact on nine different regions. It coincides with the government’s Industrial Strategy and objectives to sustain and grow regional economies.
These regions include East Midlands, East of England, London, North East, North West, South East, South West, West Midlands, and Yorkshire. Spreading the benefits evenly across the country is a good sign of educational and other developments in the regions. It gives international students more options as well as the incentive to experience other parts of the country.
With negative perceptions about the impact of Brexit on the country’s economy, reports like these shed a more positive light. In order to continue as one of the world leaders in education, UK will need to capitalize on these benefits, as well as make people more aware of the contributions that come from international students.
According to Pam Tatlow, Chief Executive of MillionPlus, “This analysis confirms yet again the value of international students to every region and country of the UK…Brexit brings a new dimension and potentially new challenges to these relationships.”