International students make “enormous contribution” to UK economy: poll

17 Mar 2023

The findings of a new poll published this week show that the public perception of international students in Britain is positive, with 64% of respondents stating the UK should continue to host the same number or more international students. The poll, commissioned from Public First by Universities UK, reveals the British public doesn’t consider lowering legal migration or reducing the number of international students should take priority over other concerns, such as NHS pressures and the cost of living. Just 9% of those surveyed believe there should be fewer international students entering the UK. In addition, 48% are of the opinion that international students should be permitted to remain in the UK for between one and five years after graduating, whilst just 13% said they should leave after their course has ended. The poll follows rumours over government restrictions that may curb the number of international students and dependents that can enter the country, together with ambiguous messages regarding working rights for international students in the UK. 

Importance of international students 

The findings from this poll also show that 62% of respondents acknowledge that students from overseas brought more to the UK economy than they took out, whilst 43% believe UK diplomacy benefits from hosting international students who have an optimistic view of the country. Furthermore, in regard to whether international students applying to so-called ‘elite’ universities should be granted preferential treatment, just 18% of respondents agreed, yet 67% said anyone who meets the visa requirements should come to the UK regardless of the uni they’re applying to. Chief Executive of Universities UK, Vivienne Stern MBE, said of the findings: “This new polling confirms that public perceptions of immigration, and of international students in particular, are not what the government may believe. The public understands the enormous contribution that international students make to our economy, institutions and research outputs, as well as enormously benefiting the UK’s international reputation. Our international institutions are cherished by the public, and we would hope that government policy follows suit,” she stated. 

Universities UK represents a total of 140 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, working with these universities, the government and stakeholders to boost national and international higher education policy.