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Indian, Chinese, US Students Added £28.8B in 2018–19, Giving Boost to UK Economy

Indian, Chinese, US Students Added £28.8B in 2018–19, Giving Boost to UK Economy

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International students have long been choosing the UK as their preferred study destination and it has generated a good impact on the country’s economy. This is reflected in a recent report by the Universities UK International (UUKi) and Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI).

According to the report, the total economic benefits of international students to the UK economy in 2018-19 were around £28.8 billion, of which £6.1 billion was generated by EU students, and the remaining £22.7 billion by non-EU students.

International Student Population in the UK

The largest number of student groups to the UK in the same year was from China with around 86,895. India and the United States were also among the top international student groups in the country with 18,305 and 12,390 first-year students enrolled in that year, respectively. The country providing the greatest number of EU-domiciled first-year students in 2018-19 was Germany, with 7,245 students coming to the UK, closely followed by France and Italy, with 6,830 and 6,180 students in the cohort, respectively.

While a large number of international students (93 percent) pursued qualifications on a full-time basis, only 7 percent of students were enrolled in qualifications on a part-time basis.

“Looking at the 2018-19 cohort, it finds the benefits of hosting international students significantly outweighs the costs,” the report notes.

The report also highlights that there are a number of advantages associated with EU- and non-EU-domiciled students to the UK economy. These mainly relate to the direct economic benefits associated with international students’ tuition fees, and the “indirect and induced economic impacts” associated with universities’ spending of this fee income.

International Student Contributions to UK Economy

Besides tuition fees, the non-tuition fee expenditure of international students in the UK, along with spending of their visiting friends and family, also contribute to the country’s economy.

The report also focuses on the multiple other benefits related to international students, such as the cultural diversity they bring to the country, the long-term business, investment and trade links, and soft diplomatic power that the UK may exert across the globe. The fee income that the UK universities receive also allows the country’s higher education sector to expand.

Putting together the impacts with respect to tuition fee, non-fee, and visitor income, the report estimates that the total benefit to the UK economy associated with a typical EU-domiciled student was approximately £94,000 per student. The economic advantages due to non-EU students resulted in a profit of £109,000. The difference between the two is mainly due to the relatively higher tuition fees that non-EU domiciled students have to pay as compared to students from (other) EU countries at UK higher education institutions.

UK: Preferred Study Destination Among Indian Students

Before the pandemic in March 2019, the UK government had declared that it plans to increase the number of foreign students in the country to 600,000, which would be a 21 percent increase on the 496,000 students pursuing higher education in the UK in 2018-19.

Since then, there have been many challenges posed by COVID-19. Travel curbs, lack of in-person classes, strict lockdowns, and vaccine policies have halted plans of international students in the last 18 months. But when it comes to Indian students, the UK continues to be a preferred destination as reflected in recent university application trends.

Data from the UK’s centralized higher education application system or Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) shows undergraduate applications from Indian aspirants to UK universities have increased by 30 percent since 2020, as of June 30. Around 9,930 applications were submitted by Indian students, as compared to last year’s 7,640 applications.

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