Businesses say #WeAreInternational and call on Amber Rudd to recognise the local economic benefits of international students

Businesses in Sheffield have united to send a strong message to Home Secretary Amber Rudd that international students are invaluable to the UK’s culture and economy.


In a new film, developed by the UK-wide #WeAreInternational campaign led by the University of Sheffield, business owners and leaders have shared their stories of how the city’s vibrant community of over 10,000 international students from more than 140 countries has had a positive impact on Sheffield.

The film’s release comes as it was reported by The Times that Ms Rudd is set to back away from plans to allow only those foreign students who are at Britain’s top universities to work in the UK after they graduate. A consultation on the student visa regime promised at the Conservative conference will now not be published until the new year. However, the Government has already received input from universities, the Chambers of Commerce, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and politicians of all parties from across the UK urging her to abandon proposed reductions on numbers of international students and to relieve constraints and onerous bureaucracy surrounding post-study work.

The #WeAreInternational campaign, supported by hundreds of universities, students, academics and businesses, is lobbying the government and highlighting why it is in our national interest to welcome international students to the UK. Its proud message of welcome to the international students who contribute so much to the UK has also been endorsed by the Foreign Office, government-wide GREAT campaign, British Council and CBI.

Business leaders in Sheffield have backed the campaign by sharing, in their own words, how international students have enriched the city’s economy and culture and changed lives.

Richard Wright, of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, had led the voice of local firms in making clear just what international students mean to the city economically: “In terms of attracting inward investment, attracting students and bringing people here to do business – we need international students.”

In 2012/13, a report estimated that international students make a net contribution to Sheffield’s GDP of £120.3 million (and this recurs annually) – this accounts for around 10% of inward investment in Sheffield.

Local businesswoman Sarah Sharp who works at Sheffield’s Theatre Delicatessen, spoke for many small businesses when she said: “International students contribute positively to Sheffield’s economy, which is often talked about because they come to restaurants, bars and theatre productions – but more than that, they contribute to Sheffield’s culture and the diversity we have here.

“They contribute to what restaurants we have, what bars we have and which shows we put on.”

Mark Parsons, co-founder of Studio Polpo Architects, also emphasised the vital contribution of student skills to the city’s economy and the jobs and affluence which are then shared by the whole community: “There’s such a lot to be gained from international students in terms of their experience and their knowledge. I think it’s often underexplored what these students bring in life experiences, the different things they’ve done and the different ways of working from their home countries.”

The widespread impact of students was also highlighted by Raz Ali, a taxi driver at City Taxis, who added: “Sheffield just wouldn’t be Sheffield without the students. Without them, Sheffield’s economy wouldn’t thrive.”

The University has already shared the new films with both government and industry partners and is hoping to hold an event in Parliament which brings together the voices of Sheffield business and city leaders with those making the decisions which will impact on future students.

Campaign co-founder and University of Sheffield Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett – an outspoken critic of government policy around international student visas – puts it simply: “International students are not only important to our universities. They are the producers of knowledge as postgraduates. They serve in our hospitals and volunteer to support charities. They are our global network after they graduate and our lifelong friends. But the government also needs to understand their economic importance. At a time when so much inward investment is focused on London and the south, international students support businesses and opportunity across the whole of the UK. We simply cannot afford to lose them and I will do all in my power to speak out for the contribution they make.”

Additional information

University of Sheffield

With almost 27,000 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 2016 and was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education in 2014.

In the last decade it has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

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.


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

#WeAreInternational, which originally began in 2013, aims to ensure the positive impact of international students and staff is heard. We want to stand together with academics and students to show that universities say no to prejudice and value our international community. We need to ensure the contribution that international students and staff make - not just financial - is celebrated here in the UK and communicated more widely to the world.

#WeAreInternational has received backing from over 100 universities, education institutions and international organisations. To find out more, visit:


For further information, please contact:

Hannah Postles
Media Relations Officer
University of Sheffield 0114 222 1046