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Contribution overseas students make to economy varies depending on constituency

The contribution international students make to the UK economy varies significantly depending on the parliamentary constituency, data suggests.

In 10 constituencies – including the seat which Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is fighting to retain – overseas students bring in more than £400 million in economic benefits, a new analysis estimates.

But there are 29 constituencies – including Clacton, which Reform UK leader Nigel Farage is fighting to win – where the benefits international students bring are worth just £5 million or less, according to findings from the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) and Kaplan International Pathways.

The data, commissioned by London Economics, estimates the value of international students to the UK across 650 parliamentary constituencies.

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Just one year’s cohort of international students is worth half a billion pounds in economic benefits in three constituencies – Leeds Central and Headingley, Sheffield Central, and Newcastle upon Tyne Central and West, it suggests.

Holborn and St Pancras in central London, the seat where Sir Keir is standing, is in the top 10 constituencies for contribution, with benefits worth £438 million.

Clacton in Essex, which Mr Farage is hoping to win, features in the bottom 15 constituencies, with economic benefits worth just £5 million.

The benefits of international students to the UK for the top 20 constituencies combined total £8.3 billion, while the benefits for the bottom 20 constituencies total just £88 million, the new data suggests.

Richmond and Northallerton in North Yorkshire, which Conservative leader Rishi Sunak is fighting to retain, is low down the list at number 567, with economic benefits amounting to £8 million.

Kingston and Surbiton in south-west London, which Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey is battling to keep, is number 91, with benefits totalling £146 million.

A report published last year suggested the estimated total benefit to the UK economy from 2021-22 first-year international students over the duration of their studies was £41.9 billion.

After taking into account the impact on public services, international students provided a total net benefit of £37.4 billion, according to the research.

Nick Hillman, director of Hepi, said the data helps to “explain the position individual politicians and their parties take towards international students”.

He said: “The new numbers are astounding. In a small handful of individual constituencies, each year’s new group of international students brings in over half a billion pounds a year.

“At the other end of the scale, there are around 100 constituencies where international students are worth less than £10 million.”

James Cannings, senior economic consultant at London Economics, said: “We hope that the incoming government, and every newly-elected MP in every constituency, will pay close attention to these findings – both for the sake of the financial sustainability of the higher education sector, but also for the growth of the UK economy as a whole.”

Jamie Arrowsmith, director of Universities UK International, said: “With election day fast approaching, this report is a timely reminder to all parties that our ability to attract international students matters to communities across the whole of the UK.

“It is in our collective interest that the next government ensures that the UK remains a welcoming destination for international students.”