University of Sheffield report sparks parliamentary debate on the importance of international students to the UK

Representatives supporting the report outside the House of Commons

The House of Commons will today (6 June 2013) debate the value of international students to the UK, urging the government to remove international students from immigration targets, just weeks after a University of Sheffield report demonstrated their importance to the economy. The debate has been secured by Sheffield MP Paul Blomfield and colleagues in a cross-party alliance pressing the Government for change.

The debate is strongly welcomed by The University of Sheffield and its Students' Union who have been working with MPs of all parties to support the call for change, citing an independent report commissioned by the University which has found that international students provide a net benefit of £120 million to the Sheffield economy each year.

University of Sheffield Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett said: "The University of Sheffield is asking the government to look again at the way international students, who are so vital to our world-leading universities and to the UK economy, are counted alongside immigrants. It is crucial that a wider debate about levels of immigration does not unwittingly deter the most talented international students who make such a powerful contribution to the success of British universities, and to the UK more widely.

"In a city like Sheffield, and indeed across the UK, international students bring skills, talents and investment which are make or break for our world-class universities and for regional economies. Many of our international students are postgraduates in subjects like science, medicine and engineering where we have a known skills gap. International students don’t just attend lectures, they create new enterprises, support our work with industry and serve as doctors in the region's hospitals.

"In short, our city and region need our international students and we must be careful not to lose them. This position is strongly supported by business in Sheffield, who know exactly how crucial our vibrant international community is to our city, and I know from speaking to other Vice-Chancellors that the position is exactly the same across the rest of the country."

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield has been a leading voice in Parliament calling for change, but he is far from alone. Calls on the government to think again about this vital area of the UK economy and education have come from Universities UK, the Russell Group of the UK's elite research-led universities, the National Union of Students, business leaders and an unprecedented five Parliamentary Select Committees.

A simultaneous debate on the issue will also take place in the House of Lords today, introduced by the former British Ambassador to the European Union and the United Nations Lord Hannay.

Paul Blomfield said: "I've been pressing this issue since the University of Sheffield and their Students' Union first raised it with me over two years ago. We've built considerable support for change and the independent report commissioned by the University has provided powerful evidence to back our arguments. International students not only add to the vitality of our universities and their research capacity, but are hugely important to our economy. We must make sure that we don’t miss out in this growing world market because of ill-considered visa rules."

Additional information

  • The University of Sheffield commissioned Oxford Economics to undertake the first ever cost-benefit evaluation of the financial contribution and the costs of international students. It concluded that the annual net benefit to the city’s economy is £120 million, and to the wider region of up to £176 million.
  • The report was launched in the Houses of Parliament in March 2013 at a cross-party event jointly hosted by Paul Blomfield, the Labour MP for Sheffield Central, and Nadhim Zahawi, the Conservative MP for Stratford-upon-Avon.
  • The Sheffield Campaign for International Students is a joint campaign between The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Students’ Union to focus on the enormous value of international students, and the benefits from all students – home and overseas – which flow from being part of a University which is a vibrant international community, welcoming talent from around the globe.
  • The House of Commons motion reads “That this House notes the recommendations of the House of Commons Business Innovation and Skills Select Committee, the Home Affairs Select Committee, the Public Accounts Committee, together with the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee and the EU Sub-Committee on Home Affairs, Health and Education, for the removal of students from net migration targets and invites the Home Office to further consider the conclusions of these Committees in developing its immigration policy.”
  • Calls for a Parliamentary debate on the issue of student visas have come from MPs of all parties, including Labour MPs Adrian Bailey, the Chair of the Business Innovation and Skills Select Committee, and Keith Vaz, the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee and Conservative MPs Nadhim Zahawi and Rebecca Harris. Research conducted by Universities UK this week concluded that international students choosing to study in the United States or Canada rather than Britain due to visa restrictions could cost the UK £350m a year in lost revenue. Between 2012-13 and 2024-25 this could lead to a £2.4billion reduction in income across the UK’s education system and economy as a whole.

Key findings of The Costs and Benefits of International Students in Sheffield report (Oxford Economics)

  • 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.
  • Modelling 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.
  • Additional long-term external benefits: the boost to innovation and enterprise within a city and region, particularly in areas of skills shortages; 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 as international students return to visit the region.


For further information please contact:
Amy Stone
Media Relations Officer
The University of Sheffield
0114 222 1046

For further information from Paul Blomfield please call 0114 272 2882