International students add 2.3 billion to UK economy

09 June 2015 3 min. read

International students contribute a total of £2.8 billion to the economy in London, while costing the city only £540 million in public spending, resulting in an added value of £2.3 billion, research by PwC shows. In addition, almost 70,000 jobs in London are supported by the activities of international students at the higher education institutions, further highlighting the benefit of international students to the city.

With immigration an increasingly burning issue and international students included in the net migration target statistics, the issue of the economic value of these students to the UK economy has been the target of debate. In a recently released report, titled ‘London Calling: International students’ contribution to Britain’s economic growth’, PwC and London First explore the added value of international students to the UK economy by comparing the students’ spending with their costs to public spending. The research includes a survey of more than 1300 (ex) students of London-based universities.

Reasons for studying in the UK

For many students studying in the UK is a popular choice, with the majority of students choosing London as their place of study for the ‘quality of education’, the ‘English speaking education’ and the ‘reputation of London’s universities’. Eight out of ten would recommend studying in the UK, with 14% of students saying that such a recommendation was one of the reasons to study in the UK.

Value added arising from spending

PwC’s research shows that the added value which comes from international students’ spending money in the UK totals to £2.8 billion. This amount can be brought down to spending of their own, tuition fees and subsistence costs, and spending from friends and relatives visiting students. In addition to adding value via spending, the students also add value to the UK economy in the form of 70,000 jobs that are supported by the activities of international students and their money spent. 

Jobs supported

Although some might say that international students are a burden to the UK as they might put too much pressure on the country’s public services, such as the NHS, PwC states that this is not true. In 2013/2014, the international students only consumed 540 million in public spending. When comparing this to their contribution of £2.8 billion in the same year, the country’s net economic benefit has been £2.3 billion.

Net short term economic benefit

Commenting on the results, Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of London First, says: “International students are made to feel unwelcome because of anti-immigration rhetoric – and the fact that they are currently included in the government’s net migration target. But students’ expenditure here is a modern-day export: they pay substantial fees and contribute significantly in consumer spending.”

Julia Onslow-Cole, Head of Global Immigration at PwC, adds: “While politicians recognise the importance of international students, there has been considerable debate over the economic value.  This is the first study to quantify the benefits of student migration.  We need more hard data like this to inform immigration policies and targets. The £2.3 billion benefit of international students illustrates there is a huge amount at stake.”