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 160 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 with 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.

More importantly, we needed to influence the debate to ensure the contribution that international students make - not just financial, but to the knowledge base, economy and culture - 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.

The campaign was relaunched following the EU referendum and the decision to leave the European Union and in July 2017 we organised another event with Paul Blomfield MP and Lord Bilimoria of Chelsea, co-chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Group on International Students.

This second Houses of Parliament event saw representatives from businesses, higher education and student organisations join forces to further highlight the economic, social and educational contributions that international students make to the UK.

At the event we explained to MPs and peers why it is in the UK's national interest to create policies that welcome more international students to study and work here.

Paul Blomfield MP and Lord Bilimoria

View more Houses of Parliament event photos on Facebook

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 160 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 forging links internationally, working closely with representatives from Temple University in Philadelphia, USA who are using We Are International as an inspiration for their own #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign, set up in response to the new administration's policies on immigration.

Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Keith Burnett, continues to comment and reflect on these issues across in the media.

The impact of #WeAreInternational

A survey of 62,000 ​prospective international students found that the degree to which a study destination is perceived as welcoming and safe is one of the most important factors in student decision making.

84 per cent of prospective international students say campaigns such as #WeAreInternational positively influence their perception of the UK, and that the higher education sector should build upon and expand these efforts to encourage international students to keep on coming.

The Guardian: How do we show international students they're still welcome in the UK?

84 per cent of prospective international students say campaigns such as #WeAreInternational positively influence their perception of the UK

Hobsons' International Student Survey

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.

Campaign partners

The campaign has been supported by more than 160 high-profile bodies, including:

  • Universities UK
  • The British Council
  • National Union of Students (NUS)
  • Members of Parliament and Members of the House of Lords
  • The Foreign & Commonwealth Office
  • UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA)
  • UK Embassies and Consulates from countries as far afield as Algeria, Brazil, Finland, Ghana, Slovenia and Venezuela
  • Confederation of British Industry
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • The Russell Group
  • GREAT Britain campaign
  • Sheffield City Council
  • Other universities and and students' unions

Representatives supporting the report outside the House of Commons

Campaign milestones

2013
Oxford Economics report launched at the Houses of Parliament 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 sparked a parliamentary debate on the importance of international students.

2014

  • Stand By Me Selfie campaign launched
  • We Are International wins the Internationalising the Student Experience category at the National Union of Students (NUS) and UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) Internationalisation Awards
  • The campaign wins best International Student Strategy award at the THE Awards

2016

  • Campaign relaunched following the EU referendum and the decision to leave the European Union with a statement of solidarity between the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University and Sheffield College
  • As of July 2017, the main campaign video had received nearly 120,000 views across all channels since its relaunch in September 2016.

2017