International students are a unique group, who have triggered heated discussions in the media recently. An article published by the Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/11657457/It-will-take-more-than-bluster-to-slash-immigration.html), painted a misleading picture of international university students who come to the UK. We are ICAN Future Star Ltd, a start-up started by former international students, and we feel compelled to illustrate the significance impact this group has to the UK economically and academically.
In 2011/12, there were 435,000 international students studying at a 163 publicly-funded HE institutions in the UK, with a 50:50 split between undergraduate and postgraduate study . In addition, there were 53,000 international students studying at 159 alternative providers, 70% of which were studying at undergraduate level . The international students, especially those outside of the EU, contributed £14 billion (20% of revenue of the UK universities, £13.9 billion of £73 billion) and helped generated 136,639 jobs in the UK. About two thirds come from outside the EU and so are subject to the payment of full overseas tuition fees. Attracting and retaining more and higher qualities of applicants’ outwith of the EU will continue to contribute to UK education both economically and academically.
The desire to have international students is not just mercenary, there are social and cultural benefits too. According to David Willetts (former UK Universities Minister) “International students have been a useful source of income for universities but the benefits are not just financial. They give campuses a window to the world and that benefits all students. It is reasonable to expect universities to recruit them in ways that protect our world-class higher education sector.” Professor James Smith (Vice Principal International, University of Edinburgh) conceded to the view and elaborated on the positive impact of having a diversified international students body at university of Edinburgh “Not only do they contribute to the vibrancy of the city and the exchange of knowledge, they also have a big impact on our society and economy, with large numbers taking part in our student volunteering programmes, contributing to local communities and the city of Edinburgh. Historically, many have chosen to stay on after study and use the knowledge they have acquired at university to do great things within Edinburgh, Scotland or the wider UK.”
Recent reports and surveys have also shown that the contribution that international students make after their graduation and often carries over as their roles as alumni. These alumni are the best brand ambassadors for the universities’; they promote the education and culture of the UK which also influence their consumption of UK goods, their trust in UK values and institutions. In addition, there is a good chance that the education in the UK increases the chances for collaborations between their home and UK organisations, which consequently leads to more investment and employability for both countries.