International students boost Scottish economy by £4.75bn

  • New figures show economic benefit of international students in Scotland is £4.75 billion.
  • Aside from London, international students in Scotland are among those to deliver the greatest financial contributions across the UK
  • On average, each of the 59 UK Parliamentary constituencies in the Scotland is £71m (per constituency) better off because of international students – equivalent to approximately £750 per resident
  • Even when accounting for dependants and other costs international students are a huge net contributor to the UK economy
  • Every 11 non-EU students generates £1m worth of net economic impact for the UK economy

New data reveals that the intake of international students in the 2021/22 academic year contributed a huge £4.75bn to the Scottish economy.

Today’s report, The costs and benefits of international higher education students to the UK, published by Universities UK International (UUKi), the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and Kaplan International in collaboration with London Economics, reveals the growing importance of international students to local economies throughout Scotland.

In total, the average net impact of international students per constituency in Scotland is estimated at £71m, which is equivalent to approximately £750 per resident. Demonstrating the spread of international students across the country, the data revealed there were 44,085 first year students enrolled in the 2021/22 cohort in Scotland.

The data also confirms that – even when accounting for the impact on public services (estimated at £536 million) – the economic benefits of hosting international students significantly outweigh the costs, with a total net benefit to the UK economy of £4.2bn associated with international students studying in Scotland.

The report, which was commissioned to explore the impact of international students to the UK economy, reveals economic benefits have risen from £31.3bn to £41.9bn between 2018/19 to 2021/22, an increase of 34%. In fact, on average international students in all the parliamentary constituencies make a £58 million net economic contribution per constituency, equivalent to approximately £560 per citizen.

Findings from the study will be announced at a live event in London, hosted by HEPI. At the event, it will be shown that international students living in constituencies in Glasgow Central, Edinburgh East, Aberdeen North, Glasgow North and Dundee West deliver the greatest financial contributions, showcasing the impact of international students to the Scotland economy.

Jamie Arrowsmith, Director of Universities UK International said:

This report further highlights the positive contribution that international students make to the UK. They offer both a cultural and social benefit to our country, and make a significant contribution to our economy. We should be proud that our universities continue to attract students from all over the world. It is vital that the UK remains an open and welcoming destination for international students, and that their contribution is recognised and valued. Higher education is one of the UK’s most important and successful exports – but it is truly unique, in that alongside generating a significant economic contribution to the UK our universities have a hugely positive global impact, creating opportunity for millions of learners and helping address some of the most pressing global challenges.”

Professor Andrea Nolan, Convener of Universities Scotland’s International Committee and Principal of Edinburgh Napier University said:

“This important report makes clear the vital contribution international students make to Scottish society and to our economy. The striking element of the report is the findings demonstrating the benefits international students generate across the whole of Scotland.

“We must also acknowledge the important role that international students play, not just through their economic contribution, but in diversifying and internationalising our campuses and communities at a time when retaining an international outlook is more important than ever. It is vital that we value their contribution to Scottish society and continue to provide a warm and inclusive welcome for all those choosing to study in Scotland.”

Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI said:

“International students underpin the success of universities across the UK. They diversify our campuses, cross-subsidise our research and spend lots of money with UK businesses, before either going home with warm feelings about the UK or staying here and contributing to the UK economy. The number of international students has been rising fast, reflecting the attractiveness of the UK to those who want to better themselves through education, and in spite of mixed messages from policymakers. If there are to be further changes to the rules on international students, then it is vital that they are based on evidence rather than whim, so this report is designed to strengthen the existing evidence base. We hope it will be read by every candidate for every major political party in every constituency in the run up to the next election.”

Linda Cowan, Managing Director of Kaplan International, said:

“This third update of research on the economic benefits of international students makes the most compelling case yet for the critical role this sector plays in our economy. With international students having a range of study opportunities open to them around the world and with increasing competition from countries that unambiguously communicate their welcoming offer to attract international students, it is critical we don’t take our success for granted. International students are clear-eyed about what they are looking for in a study destination and increasingly we hear from students that employability skills and careers advice are at the top of their list.  We need better data on the employment outcomes of international students, consistent policy, a strong offer, and a unified message of welcome.”

Dr Gavan Conlon, Partner at London Economics, said:

Reflecting the attractiveness of the United Kingdom as a place for undertaking higher education, the number of international students coming to the United Kingdom is an all-time high. International students put nearly 10 times more into the economy than they take out – boosting both local and national economic wellbeing.”

He added:

“However, international students also allow universities to undertake world class teaching and research that would not otherwise be possible. As one of the UK’s most significant export industries, the success of universities in attracting international students should be applauded.

The full length version of the report can be found here.