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International students are essential for UK universities

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A new report from Universities UK reveals that international students are essential in their contribution to the UK economy, generating billions of pounds every year and supporting 206,600 jobs.

During 2014 and 2015 overseas students (EU and non-EU), making up 19% of the overall student population, spent £25.8 billion in gross output and were responsible for £10.8 billion of UK export earnings. This includes university fees, living costs and socialising. Indeed, international students account for 14% of total university income.

Moreover, they paid out £5.4 billion for goods, activities and services as well as £1.2 billion to the transport industry, and £750 million to the retail industry. Additionally a £520 million contribution to the economy comes from visiting family and friends who patronise hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions.

Off-campus spending by international students also generated £1 billion tax revenues in 2014/15 - the equivalent to the salaries of 25,000 police officers.

Dame Julia Goodfellow, president of Universities UK, said: "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."

Analysis of this year´s UCAS data shows that applications from EU countries are down by 7% - falling by 6% in England in contrast with only 2% in Scotland. 

In October a series of controversial plans were announced by Home Secretary Amber Rudd, which will create more difficulties for foreign students wishing to study in the UK, including a multi-tiered student visa system.

In this system, the right to work in the UK after graduation, to bring along family, and to arrive without passing an English language test would depend on the quality of the university and course the student applied for, meaning that students wanting to go to Oxford or Cambridge would have a higher chance of being admitted to the UK.

These plans are not popular among all politicians, however. John Pugh MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary, stresses: "International students make a huge contribution to our economy and society. If the Government was serious about balancing the budget, it would be building on the UK's success in attracting foreign students and excluding them from net migration figures.

"This shows you can't have a hard Brexit and strong universities that generate jobs and growth." 

Image by Keith Edkins.

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