From education to employment

International education exports generate almost £20bn for UK economy

The latest figures show that education generated almost £20bn for the UK in 2016 through exports such as international students and English language training.

Britain’s education sector remains one of its most lucrative international assets with new figures revealing today that its exports overseas generate almost £20bn for the UK economy (24 January).

The figures, which include income from international students and English language training overseas, are growing year-on-year to an estimated £19.9bn in 2016 and an increase of 26% since 2010 – generating significant revenue for the UK, alongside other well-known exports such as automobiles, advertising and insurance.

International exports adding a significant contribution to the economy include:

  • Higher education – £13.4bn
  • Transnational education (TNE) – £1.9bn
  • Education products and services – £1.9bn
  • English Language Training Courses – £1.6bn
  • Independent schools – £0.9bn

The figures are a welcome reminder of the strength of the sector and the UK’s exports as it prepares to leave the EU, and plans are being put in place to strengthen post-Brexit Britain’s international exports even further through a new International Education Strategy, which will be launched in 2019. After leaving the EU, the UK will also be able to use its newly independent trade policy to further our trading ties with key overseas markets.

This follows the Education Secretary’s speech at the Education World Forum on Monday (21 January), welcoming education ministers from across the globe to work with the UK as a world-leader in the education sector.

The statistics out today show an increase in education-related equipment, including digital technology, building on the Education Secretary’s call yesterday (23 January) for the tech industry and education sector to make smarter use of technology to reduce teachers’ workload at the Bett Show in London.

Education has long been one of the UK’s most attractive offers for export, with English being the language of business and a central global language. The most recent data shows the UK is the most popular destination for English Language Training making up around 45% of the total market.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

The UK has always provided world class education and these figures underline the importance of it to our economy – cementing our status as a global leader in this sector.

International university students constitute an important earnings source for our universities but they are also an important part of Britain’s cultural influence in the world. As well as this, there are big growth opportunities in areas like education technology, services and satellite or partner campuses.

Education is a fundamental part of our offer to the world, and we will work to maintain and grow this in the years to come.

Minister for Investment Graham Stuart said:

This is another record year for education exports. More and more students are coming to the UK to study and our immigration changes will make the UK even friendlier as a place to study and work. From education technology to British curricula and assessment we have what the world is looking for in education.

DIT is there to support British companies from giants to start ups – to gain market share, and help the world learn. We look forward to producing a refreshed International Education Strategy this year and working with the sector to grow even faster in global markets.

Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International, said: 

“These figures highlight the hugely beneficial economic impact of the UK higher education sector and our international students, including students that come to the UK to study and those studying on UK programmes overseas.

“While the growth shown between 2015 and 2016 highlights that a UK university education is still in high demand, growth in the UK’s provision of higher education to international students has stagnated following changes to student migration policy  made in 2012. The UK’s growth has not kept pace with other major study destinations such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

“The government’s upcoming International Education Strategy offers a real opportunity to rectify this plateau in growth. We hope that recent proposals  to extend the time international students can stay in the UK to look for work after graduating for a period of up to one year for PhD students and six months for others are introduced swiftly by government. However, we also believe it is necessary to go further, with a two-year Global Graduate Talent visa, that would make the UK more attractive to students and would allow a wider range of employers, in all parts of the UK, to benefit from access to talented graduates from around the world.”

The figures for education-related exports include tuition fees and living expenditure of EU and non-EU students, research and other contracts, as well as products and services such as through qualification awarding bodies and education-related equipment including educational technology.

International higher education students make a significant contribution to the UK and our world-class HE sector, both economically and culturally.  The latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show the number of international students starting courses at UK higher education institutions in 2017/18 are the highest on record, with a 5% from the previous year.

These students, both EU and non-EU, contributed an estimated £11.9bn to the UK economy in tuition fees and living expenditure in 2016.

As well as this, our universities are at the forefront of global research and teaching, with four in the top 10 universities in the world. These high standards, found right across the board, have led to around 460,000 international HE students studying here in 2017/18.

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