International students 'bring in billions for Scottish economy'

The intake of overseas students between 2021 and 2022 boosted Scotland's economy by nearly £5bn.

Universities in Scotland: International students bring in billions for Scottish economy, study finds Getty Images

More than a third of first year undergraduates in Scotland are from abroad, a study has found, with international students bringing in billions for the economy.

The analysis, released on Tuesday, said the intake of overseas students in the 2021/22 academic year boosted the Scottish economy by £4.75bn, with those studying in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee bringing in the most.

Professor Andrea Nolan, principal of Edinburgh Napier University and convener of the international committee of Universities Scotland, said the report “makes clear the vital contribution international students make to Scottish society and our economy”.

The report, published by Universities UK International, the Higher Education Policy Institute and Kaplan International in collaboration with London Economics, said there were 44,085 first year international students in Scotland in the last academic year, which meant 34% of the 2021/22 intake were from abroad.

This is up from the 29,730 in 2018/19, when the study was last published.

The UK average is 30% of first year students from abroad in 2021/22, but it was 40% in London and in Northern Ireland 36% of new undergraduates were international.

The 89-page report said there had been a notable increase in the proportion of international students in Scotland which, the authors said, reflected that “international students’ fees have long been making up the substantial shortfalls in income for educating domestic students”.

Outside of London, the report found, international students in Scotland are among those to deliver the greatest financial contributions across the UK.

It said, on average, each of the 59 UK parliamentary constituencies is £71m better off because of international students, or about £750 per person.

But, the report said, international students living in Glasgow Central, Edinburgh East, Aberdeen North, Glasgow North and Dundee West bring in the greatest financial contributions.

International students studying in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee brought in the most moneyiStock

In Glasgow Central alone, researchers said, the financial benefit of international students in the 2021/22 cohort brought in about £292m. This is equivalent to £2,720 for every person living in the area.

On average, report authors said, every nine EU students and every 11 non-EU students generated £1m of net economic impact for the UK economy over the duration of their courses.

Professor Nolan said it was not just the economic benefit students brought that should be considered.

“We must also acknowledge the important role that international students play, not just through their economic contribution, but in diversifying and internationalising our campuses and communities at a time when retaining an international outlook is more important than ever,” she said.

“It is vital that we value their contribution to Scottish society and continue to provide a warm and inclusive welcome for all those choosing to study in Scotland.”

It is the third report published, with the previous studies focussed on the 2015/16 and 2018/19 academic years.

Jamie Arrowsmith, director of Universities UK International, said the report “further highlights the positive contribution that international students make to the UK”.

“It is vital that the UK remains an open and welcoming destination for international students, and that their contribution is recognised and valued,” he said.

“Higher education is one of the UK’s most important and successful exports – but it is truly unique, in that alongside generating a significant economic contribution to the UK, our universities have a hugely positive global impact, creating opportunity for millions of learners and helping address some of the most pressing global challenges.”

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