University and Students’ Union welcome parliamentary report calling for major change in government’s approach to international students

International student ambassadors

The University of Sheffield and its Students’ Union – co-founders of the nationwide #WeAreInternational campaign – have welcomed a cross-party parliamentary report calling for a major change in the government’s approach to international students.

A report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on International Students, published today (6 November 2018), makes 12 recommendations to restore the UK’s competitiveness in the international higher education sector – including the introduction of a post-study work visa, which would allow international students a period of up to two years’ work experience in the UK.

The APPG also urges the government to set a clear and ambitious target to increase international student numbers, supported by a commitment to remove students from the target to reduce net migration.

The University of Sheffield, together with its students, founded the nationwide #WeAreInternational campaign, now supported by 200 universities and business organisations, which has long lobbied for a more welcoming environment and visa system for students travelling to the UK from across the world.

APPG chairsThe APPG, which heard evidence from the University of Sheffield, also recommended the government learns from campaigns such as #WeAreInternational and regional initiatives like #LondonIsOpen to ensure messages for international students regarding education in the UK are welcoming, clear, simple and consistent.

Professor Koen Lamberts, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield and Chair of the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), said: “I am proud to be the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield – the university that co-founded the #WeAreInternational campaign and which has spoken with conviction about the benefits of international scholarship to cities and communities across the UK.

"International students make a huge contribution, both academically and economically, and our diverse student population is crucial to the education, research and innovation for which we are known around the world. The measures in this report will enable the UK to recover its falling market share in the international student market, and I wholeheartedly urge the government to take note, in the national interest.”

Rex Bechu, International Officer at Sheffield Students’ Union, added: "I support the recommendations made by the APPG. I personally believe these will go a long way in welcoming international students and creating a truly global community in the United Kingdom."

The APPG report is the latest in a number of studies that have clearly shown the benefits that international students bring to the UK.

International students make a huge contribution, both academically and economically, and our diverse student population is crucial to the education, research and innovation for which we are known around the world.

Professor Koen Lamberts

A Higher Educational Policy Institute (HEPI) report published in January 2018 showed that spending by international students has become a major factor in supporting cities across the country and that the Sheffield Central constituency is the area that benefits most.

The analysis found the 2,456 international students who started their studies in the Sheffield Central constituency in 2015/16 will contribute £226 million each year to the economy during their studies - equivalent to £1,961 per constituent per annum in the constituency.

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield, Co-chair of the International Students APPG, said: “Increasingly restrictive policies and procedures over the last eight years have discouraged many international students from applying to the UK.
“We need to press the reset button, establish an ambitious strategy to increase recruitment, put new policies in place, and send out a clear message that international students are welcome in the UK.

“Our report offers a way forward for the Government, and a route-map to renewed competitiveness for our world-class universities and colleges. I urge Ministers to look carefully at our recommendations and step up to the challenge.”
International Students APPG Co-chair Lord Bilimoria added: “Like most of the population of the UK, I am proud that students from all around the world want to come and study in Britain. But our Government has treated this as a problem.

“This damages our relationships around the world and hurts our universities and local economies. It’s time for a fresh start.”

Following the publication of the report, the APPG will work to champion its recommendations within Parliament – including during the passage of the upcoming Immigration Bill.

Read the APPG report

Additional information

Recommendations for government

  • The APPG recommends that a cross-departmental group establishes a clear and ambitious target to grow international student numbers, supported by a cross-departmental strategy and a commitment to remove students from the target to reduce net migration.
  • The Government should offer a clearly labelled and attractive post-study work visa which allows up to two years of work experience in the UK.
  • The Government should pursue an EU deal for unrestricted movement of students and researchers, as part of a close relationship with European universities and provide urgent clarity for EU nationals studying and researching in the UK on what changes they will experience in visa and funding rights.
  • Immigration rules should facilitate and encourage students to study in the UK and at multiple study levels within the UK education system.
  • The Government should promote and protect the diversity of the UK education offer including small, specialist, vocational and further education providers within the proposed recruitment strategy.
  • The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration should conduct an independent review of credibility interviews within the student immigration system to ensure the system is fit for purpose, cost-effective relative to current risk and does not limit the diversity of international students in the UK.
  • The UK Government should work closely with devolved and regional governments to support growth in international student numbers, protect local courses and institutions which are dependent on international students, and support regional and national initiatives which enhance the benefit of international education such as work experience schemes and industry engagement.
  • The Government should accurately track data on education as an export and as an economic value, including at a national, regional and local level. Government should include education in their trade strategy when approaching bi-lateral agreements.

Recommendations for universities, colleges and schools

Education institutions should share best practice across the education sector to enhance internationalisation strategies through maximising the advantages and benefits of having a diverse body of international students, as well as support more UK students to study abroad.

Recommendations for cooperation

  • Messages for international students regarding the UK should be welcoming, clear, simple and consistent. These should be developed in cooperation between the government and the education sector.
  • The UK should establish an international graduate and alumni strategy which would support international students for employment opportunities in their home country to boost UK soft power, research and trade and support greater engagement with alumni by universities, business and government. Activities to track the long-term employment destination of international graduates should be intensified.
  • Education institutions, local government and local business should come together to attract, plan for, support and integrate international students in the local community.

The University of Sheffield

With almost 29,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2018 and for the last eight years has been ranked in the top five UK universities for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.


For further information please contact:

Hannah Postles
Media Relations Officer
The University of Sheffield
0114 222 1046