UK universities punch well above their weight when it comes to attracting students from overseas. 

In response to a joint report, "The UK’s tax revenues from international students post-graduation" by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and Kaplan International Pathways (Kaplan) which explains the contribution from overseas students who graduate from university and remain in the UK to work

Shadow Higher and Further Education Minister Gordon Marsden MP said:

“Today’s report underlines everything Labour and the sector have been saying about the vital contribution international students’ play to our universities’ and the economy.

“The Home Office have consistently risked damaging our world-class HE sector and international brand through their hostile attitude towards international students. As HEPI have pointed out, the Government’s strategy and targets are meagre and neglect the opportunities for HE at FE Colleges.

“With their continuing restrictions on post-study work rights and their new decision to introduce a minimum salary threshold of £30,000 in the Immigration bill, the Government are putting at risk our universities competitiveness against rivals across the world.

“This new research clearly shows the benefits international students have for our economy. Government should put in place a system that encourages growth and ensures the UK is a welcoming destination post Brexit.

“Right now this Government needs to act swiftly to prevent a looming disaster for up to 17,000 young people about to do a year abroad on Erasmus+. The huge uncertainties over Brexit threaten their funding and accommodation arrangements, whilst UK Universities are also losing out on prospective EU students because of a lack of Government guarantees about remaining in the programme. This situation could have a devastating impact for both students and UK institutions."

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Matthew Percival, CBI Head of Employment policy, said:

“UK universities punch well above their weight when it comes to attracting students from overseas – and have the potential to grow even further. HEPI’s research is an important contribution to filling the knowledge gap identified by the Migration Advisory Committee.

"It shows the significant economic benefits that come when international students remain in the UK to work – particularly in addressing shortages in key sectors like engineering.

“For universities to reach their potential, the Government must ensure that international students have reasonable time to find a skilled job after completing their studies.”

Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said:

“International students contribute a huge amount to the UK, both economically, as this new research from HEPI and Kaplan shows, and culturally, by enriching the educational environment in our universities for all students.

“They play a vital role in combating skills shortages in key sectors – including science, engineering and nursing careers. This new research estimates that restrictions on post-study work introduced in 2012 are costing the UK £150 million a year.

“International students want to come and study in the UK, seeing the value of the high quality education our universities offer, but we are slipping behind our global competitors – Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The UK’s immigration system should reflect the extent to which we value international students’ contribution.

"While the government’s new International Education Strategy marks a step in the right direction, more should be done to send a welcoming message to international students. The government should extend the opportunities for graduates to work in the UK to at least two years.”

Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, said:

“Universities firmly believe the Government’s biggest mistake in higher education has been to discourage international students from coming here. A hostile environment has been in place for nearly a decade. It is a testament to the strengths of our higher education sector that the number of international students has not fallen, but it is an absolute tragedy that we have been unable to keep up with the pace of growth in other countries.

"The Home Office used to say there is insufficient evidence to show international students bring benefits to the UK. We proved this to be false last year, when we showed international students contribute £20 billion a year net to the UK. But, afterwards, the Migration Advisory Committee claimed there was still a lack of evidence to show international students who stay in the UK to work make a positive contribution.

"We can now disprove this too. Just one cohort of international students who stay in the UK to work contribute over £3 billion to the UK Exchequer – and it would be even more if policymakers had not reduced post-study work rights in 2012. The hard evidence shows a new approach is overdue.”

Linda Cowan, Senior Vice President, Kaplan International Pathways, said:

“Restricting post-study work rights for international graduates has hampered efforts to attract students to the UK, with the number arriving here growing more slowly than in other countries.  Proposals in the Government’s White Paper to introduce a minimum salary threshold of £30,000 would undoubtedly make us even less competitive. This places real risk to the UK of losing the significant economic, educational and soft power benefits this country has enjoyed for many years.

“We now have evidence that one of the many ways international students contribute to our economy is by filling skills shortages. Given their high level of English competency and impressive academic achievements, we should be doing everything possible to encourage them to stay and work here. To do this, we need to reinstate attractive and competitive post-study work rights for all international students. We must go further than the recommendations in the Migration Advisory Committee report, and included in the Government’s recently released International Education Strategy, which would continue to place the UK behind other countries.”

Ms Maike Halterbeck, Associate Director at London Economics, and lead author of the report, said:

A detailed analysis of the most up-to-date labour market data has illustrated the huge economic contribution of international graduates to the UK economy in the first 10 years following graduation. However, the contribution of more than £3 billion hides the fact that in the longer term, this contribution is likely to be many times higher as international graduates make the UK their home.

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