By Jane Robinson, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Engagement & Place at Newcastle University
The North East is home to some of the best universities in the world, and because of our global reputation we welcome thousands of international and EU students every year.
In the 2018/19 academic year 12,595 international first year students came to study in the North East, and a new report by the Higher Education Policy Institute and Universities UK International has looked in detail at the benefits international higher education students bring to both the UK and regional economy.
The report shows the 2018/19 cohort of international students in the UK delivered a net economic benefit to the country of £25.9 billion. In the North East LEP area, the total net impact on the economy was just under £1bn (£975.9m).
In fact the North East region, including Tees Valley, delivers one of the highest average impacts per parliamentary constituency in the country; an estimated £460 per member of the resident population, second only to London and on par with Scotland. Newcastle upon Tyne East is ranked fourth in the top 20 parliamentary constituencies in terms of the net impact international students have on the economy.
The UK’s exit from the European Union and the coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly created barriers for international students to study in the UK, something that is reflected in EU student recruitment, which is currently lower than in 2020. International student numbers have, however, stayed relatively stable in the 2020/21 academic year.
Whilst the findings in the report are extremely positive for the North East region, it fails to include is some of the other important indirect benefits international students bring to our regional economy, such as tax revenues, investment and trade links, and the soft diplomatic power exerted on an international stage as a result of the networks built up during their stays.
We only need to look at the hugely successful alcoholic tea company NOVELTEA, which was founded by two international Newcastle University students in 2016 to see this in action. Based in Newcastle, the company has expanded into several international markets – including Germany and China – and plans to create further jobs as it eyes expansion into the US. By choosing to remain in the North East to grow their business, NOVELTEA’s co-founders, Vincent Effroth and Lukas Passia, have created new jobs, boosted the North East economy, established positive trade links and raised the profile of our region internationally.
Newcastle University’s START UP programme is also supporting and endorsing ambitious international graduates to remain in the UK to start and grow businesses. Four of the programme’s graduates have been accepted onto the Department for International Trade’s (DIT) prestigious Global Entrepreneur Programme (GEP), which connects companies into the global ecosystem and supports them to scale their solution to address global opportunities. The partnership between START UP and GEP allows highly motivated, talented entrepreneurs to thrive in our region and add significant value to both the regional economy and UK PLC.
The Higher Education Policy Institute and Universities UK International report focuses solely on the economic benefits international students bring to academic institutions and destinations, but I think it’s important to remember the North East benefits in a number of other ways too. The wider cultural and societal impacts are just as important to our region.
At Newcastle University alone we have over 150 nationalities represented on campus, and that diversity helps create a more vibrant and creative environment for all our students.
We’re seeing many international students remain in the North East after their studies to take up skilled positions in our emerging sectors, or start new businesses of their own, which go on to employ people and contribute to our local economy.
If we think about the North East’s strengths in data and digital, life sciences and the green economy, as well as our cultural and creative opportunities, the global links we’ve established through our international students can create opportunities for North East businesses to attract talent and investment.
I also firmly believe our UK students enjoy a better learning experience because of the diversity on our campuses. It’s a chance for them to build connections across the world that can open up a world of opportunity.
The report makes for fascinating reading, and further demonstrates the essential role universities in the North East play in delivering a stronger North East economy and a vibrant and diverse place to live, work and study.
To read ‘The costs and benefits of international higher education students to the UK economy’ visit www.hepi.ac.uk.