Indian students prolific in adding to UK revenues; worth 28.8 billion pounds to the UK economy: Report

The analysis comes as international student numbers at UK universities have been hit by the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic
Representative Image | Pic: Pixabay
Representative Image | Pic: Pixabay

Just one year's intake of incoming international students is worth 28.8 billion pounds to the UK economy, with India among the most “prolific” as an overseas education market, according to a latest analysis released on Thursday.

‘The costs and benefits of international higher education students to the UK economy' report, published by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and Universities UK International (UUKi), finds that China remains the “dominant nation” at 86,895 first-year students entering the UK higher education in 2018-19, with India coming in second.

“India and the United States were the next most prolific, with 18,305 and 12,390 first year students enrolled in 2018-19, respectively,” the report notes.

“Aggregating across the entire 2018-2019 cohort of first-year students, we estimate the total economic benefits of international students to the UK economy to be approximately 28.8 billion pounds (USD 39.8 billion) over the entire period of their studies, of which 6.1 billion pounds (USD 8.4 billion) is generated by EU students, and the remaining 22.7 billion pounds (USD 31.4 billion) is generated by non-EU students,” it adds.

HEPI and UUKi warn that this contribution of international students to the economy should not be taken for granted and more should be done to promote the UK as a welcoming, diverse and accessible study destination.

“This report confirms higher education is one of the UK's greatest export earners,” said Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI. “The policy environment is, in many respects, more conducive than it was, with the government gradually becoming more positive about international students.But the current halving in the number of EU students confirms future success cannot be taken for granted,” he said.

The analysis comes as international student numbers at UK universities have been hit by the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and changes to the tuition fee structure for the European Union (EU) students after Brexit – EU student acceptances to undergraduate degree courses were 56 per cent lower in early August 2021 than at the same time last year.

However, the trend among students from India has been largely a positive one, with figures expected to further rise as a result of the new Graduate Route visa with its post-study work experience option for successful graduates.

“As today's report has shown yet again, Indian students are a major contributor to the annual net 28.8 billion pounds revenue of the British economy, bringing both direct and indirect benefits,” said Sanam Arora, Chair of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) UK, which campaigned for the post-study work visa for many years.

“This is why I created the NISAU almost 10 years ago now – to champion the welfare and consumer rights of our community. I looked around nine years ago and asked myself why thousands of Indians were being treated so badly and decided that enough was enough and that it was about time that we got the return on investment we deserved,” she said.

HEPI and UUKi are calling for government efforts to ensure the success of the Graduate Route visa and to reduce the financial barriers for international students, among some of the actions required.

“While there has been a growing realisation of the tremendous social and cultural benefits of international students, this study provides a stark reminder of their financial importance to communities across the UK, economic recovery and the levelling up agenda,” said Vivienne Stern, UUKi Director.

“We now need fresh ideas and stronger momentum to achieve the UK government's international education strategy target of attracting at least 600,000 international students every year by 2030 and the good this will bring to everyone,” she said.

Dr Gavan Conlon, Partner at London Economics – which was part of the research, added: “After Brexit and the pandemic, the long-term challenges facing the UK economy have never been greater. Built on a world-class higher education sector, international students represent a huge growth opportunity to the UK economy. Every effort should be made by the UK government to further develop this crucial export market."

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