We are international - #WeAreInternational campaign

We value international students and are passionate about making sure their contribution to our economy and culture is recognised.

That's why the University and Students' Union, led by our Vice-Chancellor and the Students' Union President, launched our #WeAreInternational campaign in 2013. So far, over 100 universities, education institutions and international organisations have backed it.

Find out more about the roots of our campaign, how it's grown and the impact it's had.

Students holding flags

Welcome to Britain?

British education is generally perceived to be one of the best in the world and is one of our most valuable exports.

But there's a fear that international students are being discouraged from studying in the UK because the country is seen as less welcoming following changes to visa rules and political rhetoric over immigration.

Is this the message that we want to give international students?

Standing together

We realised that the positive impact of international students had been buried – and so had our voice and our story. So in response, we wanted to stand together with academics, students, the community, city leaders and other partners to show that Sheffield is a city that says no to prejudice and one that values its international students.

And more importantly, we needed to ensure the contribution that international students make - not just financial - is celebrated here in the UK and communicated more widely to the world.

After all, we are all international.

Publicising the evidence

In 2013 we commissioned a report from Oxford Economics that showed international students in Sheffield are responsible for pumping over £120 million into the city economy over a single year – that’s 10% of inward investment in Sheffield.

The report, launched at the Houses of Parliament, sparked a parliamentary debate on the importance of international students and later led to the University of Sheffield's Students' Union President and International Officer being invited to parliament to make the case for international students as the controversial immigration bill returned to the House of Commons.

More than money: the myth of isolation

As part of the #WeAreInternational campaign, we also wanted to bust the myth that international students don’t integrate properly with the city and to demonstrate that their value to Sheffield isn't just financial.

In fact, our research showed that international students are totally ingrained in city life. They work on placements in our hospitals and businesses; they volunteer for over 140 Sheffield charities and schools; and also are involved with Raising And Giving (RAG).

They also enrich the cultural life of the city through a spectacular programme of music, food, dance and language events all year round, many of which are organised through our very own Students' Union.

Going national – and international

After publicising how international students benefit a major UK city like Sheffield, we were keen to expand this to a broader campaign with the support of all universities, students’ unions and all those who are concerned about international students in the UK.

The campaign has been supported by more than 100 UK universities and colleges, the British Council and the Home Office.

Working together we've:

  • produced website material
  • created videos with our partners to help explain things like how international students apply for UK visas
  • written news release templates and co-ordinated the release of positive national stories about the value of international students
  • used a social media #StandByMe campaign to help support We are international

We're also using the profile of our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Keith Burnett, to comment and reflect on these issues across in the media:

We're not finished yet

We're proud of what we've achieved so far with our #WeAreInternational campaign and are honoured that this was acknowledged by our ranking in Times Higher Education's list of top 100 most international universities.

But we know there's still much work to do to make sure that the value of international students is properly recognised. We'll continue to develop our campaign to highlight the positive contribution they make – and to promote the message that anyone studying in the UK will receive a warm welcome and a world-class education.

Representatives supporting the report outside the House of Commons

Some of our #WeAreInternational campaign partners

  • Universities UK
  • The British Council
  • National Union of Students
  • Members of Parliament and Members of the House of Lords
  • Confederation of British Industry
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Sheffield City Council
  • Other universities