New report demonstrates £120 million benefit of international students to Sheffield economy

At a House of Commons launch today (Monday 4 March 2013), the University of Sheffield will unveil ground breaking research that shows international students in the city are responsible for pumping over £120 million into Sheffield’s economy over a single year.

Flags of World on Sheffield Town Hall

The study, developed by Oxford Economics and commissioned by the University of Sheffield, highlights the huge contribution international students make to the city and the UK economy.

The report's parliamentary launch will be jointly hosted by Paul Blomfield, the Labour MP for Sheffield Central, and Nadhim Zahawi, the Conservative MP for Stratford-upon-Avon, highlighting the cross-party support for recognising the benefits of international students and continuing to welcome them to study in the UK.

This is the first research by a university to evaluate both the financial contribution and the costs of international students, to conclude that there are net benefits to the city’s economy of £120 million, and to the wider region of up to £176 million.

Such a holistic analysis should answer some previous claims that evaluations of international students’ economic benefits have not been based on sufficient quantitative data. While recognising there are costs as well as benefits, the report now proves unequivocally the enormous economic stimulus international students provide.

The data highlights that 8.9 per cent of international students go on to boost local labour supplies by utilising their skills directly in Yorkshire and Humberside. This impact is felt outside the city too, with an additional 10.7 per cent employed in the rest of the UK, supporting the national workforce with fresh skills and talent.

The research follows concerns from the University of Sheffield 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.

Later this evening, Professor Sir Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sheffield, will say: “Here at Sheffield, we're proud of the extensive contribution our international students make to both the University and the city, boosting the city’s economy by a net figure of £120 million, something that will be reflected in other towns and cities nationally. I’d like to thank our international students for this important contribution and show the world how much we value it.

“Both the University and our students believe the impact of this research and its nationwide implications can influence changes in policy to make sure the UK doesn’t unwittingly deter people of the talent of international students who have a great contribution to make and are such a vital part of the success of British universities.”

The report comes as part of a call for action from the University of Sheffield for the value of international students to be recognised, with students thanked and safeguarded for the significant contribution they make to the economy and our diverse culture at a time when the UK badly needs such growth.

At the University of Sheffield, almost half of its international students are studying for STEM degrees, making their extensive talent, knowledge and skills crucial in plugging acknowledged skills gaps in the UK workforce.

In addition to the key role international students play economically, the report highlights the other reasons to value international students.

These include the future benefit for UK diplomacy when international students attain positions of influence abroad; and increased tourism revenues when international students return to visit the region.

Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield, who has campaigned in Parliament on the issue for two years, hopes that the report’s findings will make a difference in shaping future policy. “We know the important contribution that international students make to the diversity of our cities and to the research and innovation of our universities. This report provides the most rigorous analysis of the economic benefits to date, and shows just how much is at stake. In university towns and cities across the UK, tens of thousands of jobs depend on international students. And the benefits could be even greater if we win our share of the growing international market for higher education,” he said.

“We need to send a clear message that international students are welcome in the UK. But that needs more than words. If we are to be seen as serious, we need a change in policy. Students should be taken out of the net migration targets; the post-study work visa rules need revisiting, and a new, more collaborative relationship needs to be developed between UKBA and the Higher Education sector.”

Dr Philip Harvey, Registrar and Secretary of the University of Sheffield, added: “This report makes very clear something that the people of Sheffield already know, namely the huge economic benefit from having international students from over 150 different countries living and studying in our community. But the people of Sheffield make these students welcome to the city not just for this reason but because they know how important it is for Sheffield to be well connected internationally, and the city's international students are Sheffield's ambassadors on a global scale reaching out every day into hundreds of different countries.

“By providing our students with an education, training and a truly memorable student experience, we are doing something that will be cherished and remembered throughout their lives wherever they are in the world, continually placing the city of Sheffield on the global map. This report gives everyone in Sheffield the chance to say we are immensely proud to be playing our part in driving forward the city and the UK's economy in this way.”

Key findings:

• In the short-term, international students at Sheffield-based universities are estimated to directly contribute £120 million to sub-regional GDP and £147.5 million in total (inclusive of indirect and induced effects). The equivalent figures at the regional level are £131.5 million and £176.6 million respectively.

• In total, the gross cost of international students is estimated to be £22.1 million in sub-regional GDP and £27.2 million in total (inclusive of indirect and induced effects). The equivalent figures at the regional level are £29 million and £39.8 million respectively.

• Therefore, the modeling indicates a net direct economic contribution to sub-regional GDP of £97.9 million with a slightly larger figure of £102.5 million at the regional level. These figures rise to £120.3 million and £136.8 million respectively inclusive of indirect and induced effects.

• Based on careers service data from the University of Sheffield, it is estimated that around 8.9 per cent of international students take up positions in the Yorkshire and the Humber region in any given year, with a further 10.7 per cent employed in the rest of the UK. In absolute terms, this translates into 453 graduates per year entering the regional labour force.

• Further long-term external benefits are likely to result from the presence of international students. These include: the boost to external demand as a consequence of increased familiarity with locally-produced goods; the potential for the UK’s international relations to be boosted by international students attaining positions of influence abroad; and increased tourism revenues if international students return to visit the region.

Download The Costs and Benefits of International Students in Sheffield report (PDF, 1.2MB)

Additional information

The findings of the report entitled The Economic Costs and Benefits of International Students do not support the economic case for policy stances suggested by recent reports such as that by the Migration Advisory Committee (2012), which found that reducing grants of Tier 4 visas for non-EE students would generate a net cost of £2.4 billion.

The University of Sheffield

With nearly 25,000 of the brightest students from 125 countries coming to learn alongside 1,181 of the world’s best academics, it is clear why the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading universities. Staff and students at Sheffield are committed to helping discover and understand the causes of things - and propose solutions that have the power to transform the world we live in.

A member of the Russell Group, the University of Sheffield has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. The University of Sheffield has been named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards 2011 for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, 2007), recognising the outstanding contribution by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

One of the markers of a leading university is the quality of its alumni and Sheffield boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students. Its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, ICI, Slazenger, and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. Its partnership with Leeds and York Universities in the White Rose Consortium has a combined research power greater than that of either Oxford or Cambridge.


For further information please contact:

Shemina Davis
Media Relations Manager
The University of Sheffield
0114 222 5339