New research suggests international students pay for 70,000 jobs in London

A new report shows that the economic benefits of overseas students in the capital far outweigh the cost


New research by London First and PwC has shown that international students at London universities contribute a net £2.3 billion to the UK economy, the equivalent of £34,122 per student.

This is the figure left after £540m has been taken off for the public services they consume, including the NHS.

Describing London’s higher education system as ‘an export success story’, the report also showed that 60 per cent of students polled in London said they were more likely to do business with the UK as a result of studying here.

Although 92 per cent of students said that they would recommend UK study to their friends and family, over a third said that the complexity of Britain’s immigration system had negatively affected their experience of studying here. Most students also said that the system made it difficult to work here after they had finished their studies.

In light of this, London First have set out a number of recommendations for the government, if it wants to continue to feel the economic benefits brought by international students.

These include:

  • Classifying students as temporary visitors not migrants, as in Canada and Australia
  • Using hard data when setting immigration targets so that we can better understand the facts on inward and outward flows
  • Creating an environment where British-educated overseas talent is treated as an asset rather than a liability.

This last point was expanded on by Baroness Jo Valentine, the chief executive of London First, who said:

“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…

“As a matter of priority, our new government should follow the lead of Australia and Canada and reclassify international students as temporary visitors, not migrants.

“It makes no sense to imply through classification and rhetoric that they are unwelcome, which is harming our universities’ abilities to sell education to talented students around the world.”

In the run up to the election, home secretary Theresa May spoke of a move towards zero net student migration, where all students would be forced to return home after their their student visas expire.

At the time, the Liberal Democrat business secretary Vince Cable cautioned that the proposals risked putting students off coming to study here. The Lib Dems said plans ignored the huge practical value to the economy that British-educated scientists, engineers etc. have, and made ‘zero economic sense’.

Today’s report seems to confirm this scepticism. It finds that the contributions of international students support 70,000 jobs in London both at the universities themselves and through their expenditure on fees (£1.32 billion) and subsistence (£1.36 billion.)

The report also exposes the myth that foreign students are a drain on public services, and points out that students have no recourse to public welfare as a condition of their visa. Furthermore, London First found that their contribution to the lack of affordable housing in the capital was ‘negligible’.

Students in London either live in university accommodation or privately rented properties; those in the latter category were found to pay an average of £650 per month. This represents a rate broadly similar to the current market price, and not the low – or ‘affordable’ – end.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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