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News article

How a cap on international student numbers could impact Yorkshire disproportionately

Published: 29 April 2024

  •   Featured
  •   International
  •    Vice Chancellor
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Professor Karen Bryan OBE, Vice Chancellor of York St John University

This article by Professor Karen Bryan, Vice Chancellor, was published by the Yorkshire Post on 27 April, to coincide with the publication of the Yorkshire Universities Statement on International Higher Education.

In 2021 /22, just under 50,000 international students enrolled at higher education providers in Yorkshire. Statistics show that this resulted in a net economic benefit of approximately £3bn.

This figure is not just reflective of the fees students pay, but of the direct investment they make locally by spending money in shops, on services, on transport, and on accommodation. International students also do part time paid work alongside their studies, in line with the requirements of their student visas, becoming an important part of our local workforces. But beyond the data lies an equally important point about the social and cultural value that international students bring.

They are helping to create a richer university experience for UK students through the sharing of ideas, perspectives and cultures. This expansion of horizons benefits UK students' post-study, providing them with a global network, enhancing their opportunities to travel and work overseas'.

Despite some suggestions, there is no evidence to support the theory that international students are taking away job opportunities, or university places, from UK students.

In fact, international student fees help to cross-fund teaching and research which benefits all students who attend university. Those same fees are also supporting the work of researchers and professionals who are making an important contribution to our economy and society.

What happens when international students finish their studies? Well, as graduates, many international students go on to become world-leading entrepreneurs, creating well-paid jobs for others. Most return to their home countries to develop impactful careers and we continue to benefit from their global influence and networks there. We also know that international graduates invest in the cities and regions in which they studied, remaining connected to their communities here. Unfortunately, these economic and social benefits alone might not be enough to dissuade the government from making changes which will affect our ability to attract and recruit international students.

Worryingly, any such measures would disproportionately impact regions outside of London, including Yorkshire, because of the greater economic contribution of our universities. For example, a cap on student numbers would damage efforts to improve local economies, and any changes to the Graduate Route Visa, currently under review at the request of the Home Secretary, would hinder our ability to welcome global talent to the UK.

In the meantime, our region's universities will continue to promote Yorkshire as a destination of choice for students across the world, supported by our work at Yorkshire Universities.

Professor Karen Bryan OBE is Vice Chancellor of York St John University and Chair of Yorkshire Universities.

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