London | International students, including Indians who make up one of the largest cohorts at British universities, bring a net positive economic impact for the UK economy even once other costs are factored in, a new report has found.
The analysis for leading UK higher education institutions released in London on Tuesday comes at a time when there are growing fears of a crackdown on international student visas as part of UK government efforts to cut down immigration figures.
Focussing on the 2020-21 statistics, the report claims a 96,000 pounds per non European Union (EU) student benefit to the economy - which covers students from countries like India.
“International students put nearly 10 times more into the economy than they take out - boosting both local and national economic wellbeing," said Dr Gavan Conlon, Partner at London Economics, which had been commissioned to conduct the analysis.
“However, international students also allow universities to undertake world class teaching and research that would not otherwise be possible. As one of the UK's most significant export industries, the success of universities in attracting international students should be applauded,” he said.
The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), Universities UK International (UUKi), and Kaplan International Pathways had commissioned the organisation to conduct the analysis amid ongoing political debate relating to potential visa restrictions for international students' dependants and potential reductions in their post-study work visa rights.
According to UK media reports, Home Secretary Suella Braverman is looking to clampdown on overseas students bringing in dependants as it is seen as adding to soaring migration figures.
"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," said Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI - an independent body.
“If there were to be further changes to the rules on international students, then it is vital that these are based on evidence rather than whim. So, this report is designed to strengthen the existing evidence base. We hope it will be read by every candidate for every major political party in every constituency in the run up to the next election,” he said.
‘The costs and benefits of international higher education students to the UK' reveals the total economic benefits from foreign students have risen from 31.3 billion pounds to 41.9 billion pounds between 2018-19 and 2021-22 - marking an increase of 34 per cent.
The data also confirms that the “economic benefits of hosting international students significantly outweigh the costs, with a total net benefit of 37.4 billion pounds to the UK economy”.
Data from the report indicates that every 11 non-EU students generate 1 million pounds worth of net economic impact for the UK economy.
“It is vital that the UK remains an open and welcoming destination for international students, and that their contribution is recognised and valued,” said Jamie Arrowsmith, Director of UUKi - the representative body for 140 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
As per the 2020-21 data, Indians represent the second largest cohort of international students coming to study at UK universities - with 87,045 first-year enrolments behind China's 99,965 enrolments and ahead of Nigeria's 32,945.
However, more recent census data has indicated that Indians have in fact overtaken the Chinese in terms of study visas. The relatively new Graduate Route visa introduced in July 2021 to allow international students the chance to stay on and work at the end of their degree is largely seen as the factor behind this surge and any clampdown on visas is likely to make the UK less attractive to Indian students.