From education to employment

Driving Further Growth Amongst International Students Beyond London​

The last few weeks have been eventful for the UK to say the least. We’ve seen three prime ministers take the reins and several cabinet shuffles.

Considering Britain is continuing to navigate economic uncertainty plus a looming recession, the levelling up strategy has the potential to play an instrumental role in driving growth.

We know international students make great contributions to the UK economy. In fact, on average, every person in the UK is £390 financially better off as a direct result of the number international students choosing to study in the UK- something that will become even more important as the UK continues to cope with the ongoing cost of living crisis.

Driving further growth amongst international students, beyond London, can be a solution to supporting and growing local economies in the UK.

Drawing and attracting international talent to smaller cities and towns outside of London will benefit the UK population as a whole and will help the country meet demands tied to innovation and economic growth.

This could lead to the creation of new jobs, innovation and economic hubs that will benefit the whole country for decades to come.  Could building on the international education strategy for London, to ensure it’s applied to other UK regions also further support the government’s levelling up drive?

Propelling local economic development through international education

As the capital and home to the most higher education institutions in Britain, London is always likely to welcome more international students as a city than anywhere else in the UK.

However, several northern England and multiple Scottish cities each too have high numbers of international students who make great contributions to the local economies in which they’re based.

In fact, data from HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) confirmed that while four of the 10 most popular universities amongst international students are in London, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Edinburgh and Glasgow also prove to be popular choices for those looking to study in the UK from abroad.

To add to this, according to QS’ best student cities for 2023 ranking, multiple northern UK cities including the likes of Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Sheffield and Leeds are ranked in the top 100 best cities globally for international students. Edinburgh is named 10th and Manchester, plus Glasgow joint 25th – great spots to be in, amongst other global players.

Furthermore, Edinburgh, Manchester and Leeds are the top three cities for start-ups and scale ups in the UK, outside of London, showing a clear correlation between entrepreneurship and international student destinations – valuable and noteworthy to bounce back and drive growth during economic turbulence.

With so many UK cities outside of London appealing to students on a global scale, plus several of these very cities also proving to be great locations for starting and scaling successful businesses, there’s a real opportunity for local leaders and councils to invest in support and resources for international students outside of London.

It’s also important to take note of how other regions around the world drive innovation and economic growth. A quarter of US billion-dollar startups have an international student founder, while more than half of start-ups in America valued at $1 billion or more were founded by immigrants.

In light of economic uncertainty, levelling up investment and funding is set to take a massive hit. However, there are other avenues that could be explored to reduce the impact on the northern regions who have been waiting years for investment and ultimately equal opportunities.

Building on the international education strategy for London to support regions north of the capital

There’s no doubt London is one of the most desirable cities to study in globally and the International Education Strategy for London is a great start to ensure the UK’s unparalleled education system remains on the world stage, firmly positioned as one of the best.

Building on the recommendations laid out in the strategy, dedicated international education champions for northern England and Scotland would help bolster the UK’s international education in other regions that are strong, but have clear room for growth.

Piloting a new single pathway student visa to incentivise international undergraduate students to progress to postgraduate courses is another great opportunity to really drive growth in the sector across the board. The strategy touches on improved accessibility of enterprise and entrepreneurship programmes which could be a catalyst for growth and only improve the government’s levelling up strategy.

 International students can have incredible impact and entrepreneurial drive – not only on driving innovation, but for the entire country’s economy. Making it simpler and more appealing for them to stay not only in London, but other regions that are thriving will only have a positive impact on everything from closing the UK’s burgeoning skills gap, plus Research and Development and innovation, to growing the economy, creating more jobs and continuing to create more prosperous cities up north.

meti basiri
By Meti Basiri, Co-Founder, ApplyBoard, the international student recruitment platform.

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