Groundbreaking #weareinternational campaign attracts 100th supporter

A groundbreaking campaign led by the University of Sheffield to highlight the crucial value of international students to the UK has now been backed by 100 universities, education institutions and international organisations.

The pioneering #weareinternational campaign, which was jointly founded by the University of Sheffield’s Vice-Chancellor and the Students’ Union President, is proving to be more vital than ever as the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) this week (Wednesday 2 April 2014) announced international student applications to the UK have fallen for the first time in 30 years.

Falmouth University is the 100th institute to support the collaborative project which aims to support talented international students as they apply to study in the UK. Falmouth joins other leading universities from the four corners of the UK including the University of Cambridge, Cardiff University, University of St Andrews and Queen’s University Belfast.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: “We have been delighted to have received support from right across the Higher Education sector, from world-renowned institutions such as the University of Cambridge and London School of Economics to more specialist institutions such as the Royal Veterinary College and the Royal College of Music. The campaign is also UK wide with support from universities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.”

As well as UK universities the #weareinternational campaign, which received cross-party support at Parliament, was developed in partnership the British Council and the UK Council for International Students and has built links with the Home Office and Cabinet Office to reinforce the message that the UK actively welcomes talented students.

“This is a campaign which our students and staff feel is vitally important and it would be tragic if this were lost within the wider debate around immigration,” said Professor Sir Keith Burnett.

“Simply put, our University believes that international students are not and should not be thought of as migrants. These students are vital to the quality of education in the UK, to our research, to our communities. They are innovators and friends.”

As part of the campaign, the University of Sheffield has produced innovative materials which are being used by partner institutions to inform prospective students about the student visa application process to study in the UK, including two short student-focused films in both India and China.

The China film was recently launched at an event in the Houses of Parliament which was hosted by Sheffield MP Paul Blomfield and attended by the Immigration Minister James Brokenshire MP and the Minister Counsellor for Education Yang Shen from the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China.

University of Sheffield’s Students’ Union International Officer, Alex Kohnert , is a passionate advocate for international students and spoke at the Houses of Parliament.

He said: “This campaign is vitally important. Why do we think international students are important to the UK? On a purely economic level, the numbers are staggering. As a ball-park figure, Universities UK say that international students bring in £8 billion per year.

“Yet when international students come to this great country to study, we build friendships with people from all over the world. We are literally changing lives. The transformational power of education is without parallel. When you bring students to new places to learn, to study, to grow as people – you change the direction of their future. And when they go back to their country, you change the direction of countries. ”

To demonstrate strong links of friendship across national boundaries and between home and overseas students, University of Sheffield students also launched a #standbyme selfie campaign in which images of students, staff and alumni are accompanied by stories of international friendship – the campaign is now spreading across other campuses in the UK.

The #weareinternational campaign is also supported by the Confederation of British Industry and the UK India Business Council, and is endorsed by the GREAT campaign.

For more information about the campaign please visit

Additional information

• A report from HEFCE published on 2 April 2014 revealed that the number of international students studying on UK higher education institutions has fallen for the first time in 30 years
• According to the UK Council for International Student Affairs, the UK welcomes over 400,000 international students annually. Overseas students make up 14 per cent of full-time first degree students and 46 per cent of all taught postgraduates.
• A report commissioned for the Department of Business, Industry and Skills estimates that the total value of UK education and training exports to the UK economy is £14 billion, with a projection that this could rise as high as £26 billion by 2025. Estimating the value to the UK of Education Exports -
• International students also make a huge contribution to the economic prosperity of city regions across the UK. An independent study of the net economic contribution of international students carried out by Oxford Economics for the University of Sheffield concluded international students provided £120 million to the city region annually, equivalent to 10 per cent of inward investment -!/file/sheffield-international-students-report.pdf

Stand By Me
The University of Sheffield is encouraging students, staff and alumni at institutions across the world to join in the campaign by uploading their own selfie with an international friend.
Selfies should be sent to and can be posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #standbyme.

For more information visit

University of Sheffield
With almost 25,000 of the brightest students from around 120 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.
In 2011 it was named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards and in the last decade 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 five 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 and Siemens, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.
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For further information please contact:

Amy Pullan
Media Relations Officer
University of Sheffield
0114 222 9859