Why international students are vital to the UK

As the UK debates the contribution and costs of immigration, the University of Sheffield and its Students’ Union are speaking up for the powerful contribution of overseas students to the UK, to British universities and to the educational experience of home students.


According to Vivienne Stern, Head of Political Affairs at Universities UK,
“Genuine international students should be welcomed to the UK - they make huge contributions academically, culturally and financially. We must continue to make sure that our message about genuine international students being welcome in this country continues to be heard loud and clear.”

Despite concerns about alleged abuses by some of student visas, both The University of Sheffield and the Student’s Union are committed to ensuring that the illegal actions of a few do not overwhelm the positive story of the UK’s outstanding universities.

In a joint statement, Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett and Student President Ally Buckle explained: “Openness to talented young people from around the world is at the heart of the UK’s world-leading universities. It is a powerful source of international collaboration and understanding as generations of leaders in every sphere of life have been given the opportunity to learn from and alongside the most able people from every continent.

"Our deep concern is that the UK’s reputation as a welcoming host for international students is being damaged by negative messages associated with concerns about immigration more widely. This is both unjust and unhelpful. International students as a body are an asset to this country, and their economic benefit dramatically outweighs any costs. In Sheffield, like many other cities across the UK, international students form a bedrock of economic stability for local businesses and organisations alongside their British colleagues."

Short films which support legitimate international students as they apply to study in the UK have been produced by the University in association with the Home Office, and are now being used by 60 universities, with backing from the National Union of Students, CBI and UK India Business Council.

Ruth Arnold, Head of Corporate Communications at The University of Sheffield, said: “The Sheffield #weareinternational campaign focuses on the wonderful contribution of international staff and students to UK universities. But it is also designed to counter widespread concern that measures taken to prevent illegal immigration can impinge on legitimate international students.

“Our campaign seeks to redress an imbalance in some of the recent media coverage of this issue, and draws on traditional methods such as studies of economic impact and statistics about the contribution of international students to innovation in our city and region. But we are also using brief films and social media to allow our UK and overseas students to tell their own stories of connection and friendship which are at the heart of our University, and so important to their futures and ours.”

#weareinternational – recent campaign activities
• University of Sheffield's Students' Union President and International Officer have lobbied parliamentarians about the case for international students and highlighted the impact of the controversial Immigration Bill – including concerns about proposals for mandatory visa checks by landlords of anyone who appears to be foreign.
• The University has commissioned an independent report into the net economic impact of international students in Sheffield, revealing that international students make up 10 per cent of all inward investment into the city, and shared this with politicians and policy makers at a cross-party launch in the Houses of Parliament.
• The University has also been working closely with the Home Office, British Council, Universities UK, UKCISA and others to develop video material for use in India and China which helps challenge damaging stereotypes about studying in the UK.

For more information about how the University of Sheffield is leading the way by supporting international students visit http://www.weareinternational.org.uk

Additional information

The 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.


For further information please contact:
Clare Parkin
Media Relations Officer
0114 222 9851