The latest news in ‘things we all already know but the government doesn’t understand’ comes in the form of a report which confirms that the benefits international students bring to the UK far outweigh any costs associated with hosting them. We all know that international students bring so much to the UK in terms of their skills, ambitions, ideas, culture and economic spending power – but apparently some people need reminding.
One of the biggest surprises of the report was the areas of the UK which benefit most from overseas students. It’s often assumed this would be London, but the Northern cities of Sheffield and Newcastle actually gain the most. Other areas reaping the benefits include Nottingham, Manchester and Liverpool. So international students are actually distributing wealth away from the capital, and helping out those areas in need of some extra love.
The report, by the Higher Education Policy Institute, found that although it costs £2.3bn to cover costs such as health and social security, in return international students contribute a whopping £20.3bn to the UK economy. So why aren’t the government listening?
The fact is, following Brexit, concerns around immigration have become a HUGE issue that the government can no longer ignore. But their plan is to calculate how many people move to the UK every year, including international students, and reduce these numbers by tens of thousands.
Of course, including international students in these figures is pretty ridiculous. They do so much good for our country, and actually very few even stay on after graduation. Research last year showed that under 5,000 a year stay on after their Visas run out – a hell of a lot less than the 100,000 number previously being thrown around.
With all the benefits they bring the UK, it seems like a crazy idea to try and reduce their numbers.
How they benefit us
Around 230,000 students arrive in the UK to study each year. In doing so they provide really important funding for our universities, and spend money in our local economies, sustaining jobs and boosting profits.
The Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, Nick Hillman, summed it up perfectly: “Fewer international students would mean a lot fewer jobs in all areas of the UK. It is literally the sandwich shops, the bike shops, the taxi firms; it is the night clubs, it’s the bookshops. Without international students, some of the local companies might go bust. Some of the local resident population would lose their jobs.”
In short, overseas students are part of the life force of this country, and we should be doing so much more to appreciate them, and not to reduce their numbers.
What happens next?
The sad thing is, the UK has already got a reputation for having many top universities, but being ‘the most student hostile government in the world’, according to a report from India’s Hindustan Times. This is why it’s so important for us as individuals to show international students some love; no matter what our government thinks, we value the contribution they make.
In response to the report, a Home Office spokesperson said: “There is no limit to the number of genuine international students that can come to the UK to study, and we very much value the contribution that they make.
“We have no plans to take international students out of the net migration figures. Including them does not act to the detriment of students or the education sector and since 2010 we have seen the number of student visas increase by 24 per cent.”
But by keeping overseas students in the overall net migration figures, the government is sending the wrong message. Labour Shadow Home Secretary Diana Abbott criticised the stance. “Theresa May is increasingly isolated on this issue, stubbornly refusing to change her policy of including international students in the Tories’ net migration target. She is too weak to accept she is in the wrong.”
There’s no guarantees about how the government will act going forward, but it’s clear that it’s our duty to show that international students are welcome in the UK and we appreciate everything they bring. Let’s use 2018 to show them a little love.