UK universities launch #WeAreInternational campaign drive to support international scholarship

  • Students, academics and leading organisations join forces to champion the benefits of an international higher education (HE) sector in the UK
  • The UK welcomes over 400,000 international students each year - contributing to student life, the economic and academic success of the HE sector and regional economies across the UK
  • Over 74,000 of UK university staff are from outside the UK
  • The UK has the highest international student experience satisfaction ratings for English-speaking countries

Over 100 universities and organisations across the UK have joined forces to advocate for international students, staff, research and collaborations in higher education.

The #WeAreInternational campaign is driven by universities, student groups and people across the UK who celebrate the UK’s long history of leading in international higher education. It calls for universities to be given the tools and policies needed to remain open, friendly, inclusive and diverse.

The campaign underpins widespread discussion about the potential effects the EU referendum result could have on perceptions of how the UK welcomes students and researchers from across the world.

Speaking about the UK’s international HE sector, Director of Universities UK International, Vivienne Stern, said: “Our universities have been welcoming international scholars to our shores since the middle ages. The economic contribution international staff and students now make to UK cities and towns is immense, both through support for local businesses and subsequent job creation, and via research-led startups and entrepreneurship.

“At the same time the friendships and knowledge that international students take with them after they study here can lead to a lifetime of partnerships, interest and inward-investment opportunities for the UK. Many of our former international students act as our ambassadors - encouraging visitors, international business links and research partnerships.”

The #WeAreInternational campaign was first developed by the University of Sheffield and its Students’ Union in response to the increased difficulties facing international students who wish to study in the UK. It has been relaunched nationally following the EU referendum result.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, has been campaigning for the UK to recognise the benefits of international scholarship. He said: “Our great universities are, at their very core, places of international scholarship which welcome ideas and talent from around the world. Our teachers and students are from many nations. The work they do and the learning which takes place in the UK makes a difference around the world. Education is and must remain without borders.

“Our international students are also warmly welcomed by our local community where they volunteer, bring cultural vibrancy, work as doctors and make a vital economic contribution - around 10 per cent of inward investment.

“But international students also give us things money can’t buy. These students volunteer for local charities, raise funds for good causes and act as homework mentors for struggling British pupils. Talented postgraduates also become crucial members of our international research groups and push the boundaries of knowledge in medicine and science. I can’t overstate how important international students are to this this country.

"We are urging the British government to recognise these benefits in word and deed, and to help us welcome students as the wonderful asset they are to our universities and communities."

The #WeAreInternational campaign is also supported by many student groups across the UK who are passionate about retaining inclusive, diverse and international environments of study.

Mostafa Rajaai, International Students Officer for the National Union of Students (NUS) said: ‘It is difficult to imagine what British universities would be like without the diversity, skills, different points of view and knowledge that international students bring with them to campuses. There is a long tradition of students coming from all over the world to the UK for a world class education and I hope this will continue for years to come.

“As the world we live in becomes more and more connected and globalised, having students from all over the world in the same class, on the same campus and in the same community, guarantees a high quality and diverse educational experience, not only for international students, but for British students who need an international education more than ever before.”

To celebrate the launch of its campaign, #WeAreInternational has released a film that includes international student and academic voices talking about life in UK universities.

To find out more and get involved visit

Additional information


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:

The 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 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, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.


For further information please contact:

Shemina Davis
Media Relations Manager
University of Sheffield
0114 222 5339