Supporting international education in the UK

UK misses out on £9 billion from declining international student numbers

Press Release date: 29.06.16

A new report from Exporting Education UK and Parthenon-EY estimates that the decline in international students arriving here since 2011/12 has already cost the UK £1.1 billion, with a further £8 billion in opportunity cost forecast by 2016/17. The report, which provides the first comprehensive account of the impact of the UK’s student visa policies on the international education sector, offers seven recommendations to government to reverse the decline and secure the significant economic contribution which international students bring to the UK – including supporting over 200,000 local jobs. In the context of the recent ‘Brexit’ vote, the report’s recommendation that the UK moves swiftly to reassure current and prospective international students that they have a welcome and stable place in the country becomes even more crucial.

The report ‘Supporting international education in the UK’ shows that globally the international education market is demonstrating strong growth of 8% per year. However, the UK is failing adequately to capitalise on this growing market, even in areas where it is currently leading, such as pathway programmes, school education and English language provision. Growth areas in international recruitment, such as below-degree pathways and vocational training, are among those hardest hit by the UK’s recent immigration policies. The report concludes that it is essential that the UK develops a strong, consistent and clear ‘offer’ to international students in order to achieve government ambitions to increase education exports to £30 billion by 2020.

Graham Able, Chair of ExEdUK, said:

“This report gives us the first complete picture of what has happened to international education in the last five years, and it is not a pretty one. It is clear the whole sector is suffering – from schools and English language centres through to colleges and universities. Not only are overall numbers down, but they are declining in areas where there is huge international demand and opportunities for the UK.

“The UK is well placed, with our renowned quality, excellent student satisfaction scores and the global power of the English language, to meet or exceed the rate of growth in the international student market. Instead we are falling behind and losing market share to rival destinations such as the USA, Australia and Canada. With a coordinated strategy and smarter policy making we can turn this around, but we need to act now.

“Unfortunately, the recent EU referendum result has only fuelled an existing sense of uncertainty amongst the UK’s prospective international students. When the student visa rules change up to 100 times a year, it is no wonder the system is viewed by both students and institutions as complex and opaque. This report shines a light on the wonderfully diverse educational opportunities that the UK sector offers, but also makes clear that international students can only take up these opportunities with the support of consistent policies and fit-for-purpose regulation. 

“In a post-referendum future, the report’s recommendations will show policymakers the way forward to secure a visa system which enjoys the confidence of both students and educational institutions, and which enables the UK to consolidate its place as a world leader in international education.”