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#WeAreInternational: International students benefit Sunderland economy by more than £153m

Home / More / News / #WeAreInternational: International students benefit Sunderland economy by more than £153m

Published on 23 May 2023

University of Sunderland students
University of Sunderland students
  • New figures show economic benefit of international students in the UK rose from £31.3bn to £41.9bn between 2018/19 and 2021/22
  • In relation to Sunderland constituencies, the net benefit figures for 2021-22 is:

Sunderland Central £74.3m

Washington and Sunderland West £39.9m

Houghton and Sunderland South £39.5m

  • International students in Glasgow, London, Sheffield, Nottingham and Newcastle are among those to deliver the greatest financial contributions
  • On average, each of the 650 parliamentary constituencies in the UK is £58m (per constituency) better off because of international students - equivalent to approximately £560 per citizen
  • Even when accounting for dependants and other costs international students are a huge net contributor to the UK economy
  • Every 11 non-EU students generates £1m worth of net economic impact for the UK economy


New data has revealed that the intake of international students in the 2021/22 academic year contributed a huge £41.9 billion to the UK economy.

The report, The costs and benefits of international higher education students to the UK, published by Universities UK International (UUKi), the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and Kaplan International Pathways in collaboration with London Economics, reveals the growing importance of international students to local economies throughout the UK.

The report, which was commissioned to explore the impact of international students to the UK economy, reveals economic benefits have risen from £31.3bn to £41.9bn between 2018/19 to 2021/22, an increase of 34%. 

The data also confirm that – even when accounting for the impact on public services (estimated at £4.4 bn) – the economic benefits of hosting international students significantly outweigh the costs with a total net benefit of £37.4bn to the UK economy.

The net economic impact of international students has seen a dramatic rise over the past few years – up 58% since 2015/16, (£23.6bn to £37.4bn). One reason for this is the 68% rise in the number of students (now standing at 350,145) from non-EU countries since 2018/19. Data from the report indicate that every 11 non-EU students generate £1m worth of net economic impact for the UK economy - or £96,000 per non-EU domiciled student.

The University of Sunderland’s international community is thriving with 7,000 students on transnational education courses in 23 partner institutions in 18 countries. As well as those based in Sunderland and London campuses.

The University has offices and representation in 11 locations around the world including Africa, China, Europe, South Asia, North America, and South East Asia.

Findings from the study were being announced at a live event in London, hosted by HEPI. At the event, it will be shown that international students living in constituencies in Glasgow, Newcastle, Sheffield, Nottingham and London deliver the greatest financial contributions, showcasing the nationwide spread of international students to the country’s economy. On average, international students make a £58 million net economic contribution per constituency, equivalent to approximately £560 per citizen.

In total, 381,000 first year international students enrolled into UK universities in 2021/22, highlighting the global appeal of the country’s higher education institutions and cementing our place as one of the leading destinations for international students. 

Demonstrating the spread of international students across England, the report shows that 98,825 students studied in London, 31,360 studied in Yorkshire and the Humber, 29,750 in the West Midlands, 27,680 in the Northwest, 24,835 in the East of England, 24,235 in the East Midlands, 18,715 in the Northeast and 19,700 in the Southwest. In relation to the other UK home nations, there were 44,085 international first-year students studying in Scotland, 14,905 in Wales, and 12,615 in Northern Ireland.

Jamie Arrowsmith, Director of Universities UK International said: “This report further highlights the positive contribution that international students make to the UK. They offer both a cultural and social benefit to our country, and make a significant contribution to our economy. 

“We should be proud that our universities continue to attract students from all over the world. It is vital that the UK remains an open and welcoming destination for international students, and that their contribution is recognised and valued.”

Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI said: “International students underpin the success of universities across the UK. They diversify our campuses, cross-subsidise our research and spend lots of money with UK businesses, before either going home with warm feelings about the UK or staying here and contributing to the UK economy. 

“The number of international students has been rising fast, reflecting the attractiveness of the UK to those who want to better themselves through education, and in spite of mixed messages from policymakers. 

“If there are to be further changes to the rules on international students, then it is vital that they are based on evidence rather than whim, so this report is designed to strengthen the existing evidence base. We hope it will be read by every candidate for every major political party in every constituency in the run up to the next election.”

View the full report here

The University of Sunderland is supporting the #WeAreInternational campaign. 

Ten years after the campaign was first launched, it is rebooting today (23 May 2023) to celebrate the contributions – economic, cultural, social, civic – international students make to the UK. 

The campaign has been developed by Universities UK International (UUKi)UKCISABUILALondon HigherBritish Council: Study UK and other sector bodies.