International students in the UK make an aggregate economic contribution of nearly £23 billion — 10 times higher than the price of accommodating them.
That’s according to new research commissioned by the Higher Education Policy Institute, a think-tank. London Economics, a consultancy, assessed the cost and benefit of hosting the 231,000 international students who came to Britain in the 2015/16 academic year.
Cost of Hosting Them is Only £2.3 billion
The economists concluded that each annual intake of overseas students brought £22.6 billion of economic benefits to the UK through tuition and accommodation fees, and other spending throughout their studies. The cost of hosting the intake was just £2.3 billion.
The research concluded that each intake produced £20 billion in net economic benefits to the UK, or £310 for every resident, during their studies.
Students in London generate the highest net economic benefits, at £4.6 billion. Students in Northern Ireland generate the least — £0.17 billion.
Nick Hillman, director of the HEPI, said that the Home Office had not accepted research previously, because it did not take into account the cost of hosting international students.
“Our work, in contrast, includes all the potential costs and conclusively proves these are small compared to the huge benefits,” he added.
Number of EU Students in UK Surged 7% This Year
The report came as the latest official figures showed the number of international students in the UK from other EU countries for the 2016-17 academic year rose by 7% to 63,000, with overall student numbers growing 2% – all of this during a frenetic political period for the UK.
The number of international students from outside the EU fell slightly, to 66,400.
The Migration Advisory Council is assessing the costs and benefits of international students and is expected to make a recommendation to the government on whether it should remove students from the government’s net migration figures.
Despite coming under pressure from her cabinet, UK prime minister Teresa May has refused to remove students from the government’s target to reduce net migration to the “tens of thousands”.
London Economics based its research on around 59,000 students from EU countries outside the UK and 172,100 from non-EU nations, the largest contingent being China.
The benefit of hosting each individual EU student was, on average, £87,000, with the costs averaging £19,000. The benefit from each non-EU student was higher, £102,000 on average, with the costs lower at £7,000. The discrepancy is due to EU students paying less in tuition and having access to UK student loans, many of which are never repaid.
Government Refused to Remove Students From Net Migration Figures
The Home Office said: “There is no limit to the number of genuine international students that can come to the UK to study and we very much value the contribution that they make.
“We have commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee to provide an objective assessment of the impact of EU and non-EU students. This provides an important opportunity for the sector to share evidence, and the MAC’s independent advice will help inform decisions on the future migration system.
“We have no plans to take international students out of the net migration figures. Including them does not act to the detriment of students or the education sector and since 2010 we have seen the number of student visas increase by 24%.”