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International students bring £26bn to UK economy as government looks to reduce their numbers

A generic stock image of medical students celebrating their graduation at The University of Manchester.
Every part of the UK financially better off — on average by £390 per person — because of international students. Photo: PA (PA)

International students make a positive contribution of £25.9bn to the UK’s economy, research shows amid news that the government wants to curb the number of foreign students who can stay after finishing their studies.

Every part of the UK financially better off — on average by £390 per person — because of international students' contribution through fees and spending, according to research from the Higher Education Policy Institute, in conjunction with Universities UK.

The home secretary Suella Braverman is expected to consider measures to limit the number of dependants able to accompany international students to Britain, as it reviews migration rules.

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Read more: The most and least affordable cities for students in the UK revealed

Braverman has previously suggested the scale of foreign students coming to the UK to study is too high.

Earlier this October, she told the Sun on Sunday that: “We’ve got a very high number of students coming into this country and we’ve got a really high number of dependents.

“Students are coming on their student visa, but they’re bringing in family members who can piggyback onto their student visa.

“Those people are coming here, they’re not necessarily working or they’re working in low-skilled jobs, and they’re not contributing to growing our economy.”

Universities UK and Universities UK International are calling for the home secretary to retract her comments on international students, and to reaffirm the centrality of international students and their dependents to their own plans for the economic future of the UK.

The research shows that by limiting the number of international students in the UK, every MP stands to lose revenue that these students bring to their own constituencies.

Fareham, Braverman’s constituency, stands to lose up to £20.2m if the number of international students is limited.

Read more: Fraudsters targeting students as impersonating scams cost victims £1,457

In the case of prime minister Liz Truss’ constituency of South West Norfolk, revenue loss could reach £16m.

“The fact that so many international students choose to study in the UK is a real success story, and the UK benefits in many ways from hosting them. International students contribute to the UK’s global connections in trade, politics and in research, and they make an enormous economic contribution too,” CEO of Universities UK Vivienne Stern said.

“For a government focussed on growth, to try to reduce the appeal to international students would be bizarre, especially when you consider that they contribute nearly £26bn to the UK economy — and that this is spread throughout all parts of the UK.

“It is even more bizarre when recent growth in international student numbers has been a direct result of pro-growth government policies and visa changes. We strongly urge the government not to take such a retrograde step,” she added.

Watch: Suella Braverman says seeing a plane taking off to Rwanda is 'her dream'