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We want to see an immigration system that helps universities to attract genuine international students and highly skilled staff to study and work in the UK.

Economic impact of international students

International students and staff make a vital contribution to the UK's world-leading higher education sector.

We aim to:

  • ​secure an immigration system that enables universities to recruit and retain talented staff and students from all over the world

  • ensure there is a proportionate, fair and transparent immigration compliance regime for UK universities: one which targets abuse but welcomes genuine international (non-EU) students and staff

  • maintain the excellent international reputation of UK universities

  • protect the strength and competitiveness of UK universitie​s glo​bally 

Our work on immigration​

Our current priorities include:

  • campaigning for students to be taken out of the net migration target

  • ensuring that changes to immigration rules do not limit the ability of universities to attract and recruit world-leading researchers and teachers

  • influencing the implementation of the Conservative manifesto commitment to place more responsibility on visa sponsors whose sponsees overstay (by using exit check data)

  • seeking improvements to the current visa compliance regime

  • working with Universities UK International to promote the UK's universities around the world

Our work is informed by the UUK International Policy Network, chaired by Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter.

The global impact of UK universities ​

Higher education is increasingly globalised, with growing numbers of students wanting to study a degree outside of their home country. The UK is currently the second most popular destination for international students after the United States.  

International students bring significant economic, social and cultural benefits to the UK. They also contribute significantly to postgraduate courses – particularly in science, engineering, technology and maths. Non-EU students contribute £8 billion to the UK economy – estimated to rise to £17 billion by 2025 – and enhance the diversity of university campuses. UNESCO estimates that the number of students seeking to study abroad will increase from around four million in 2010 to seven million by 2020. 

International staff also make a vital contribution to UK universities. In 2013–14, over 30,110 non-EU staff were employed in UK universities, making a vital contribution to our world-leading research base.

Our universities are world-leading. To retain this enviable position, it is vital that they remain able to recruit genuine international students and world-leading academics and researchers from around the world. ​

HERB – Lords second reading

Parliamentary briefing: Lords Amendment 156 to the Higher Education and Research Bill

7 April 2017
Our briefing for MPs ahead of the Higher Education and Research Bill returning to the House of Commons for the consideration of Lords amendments, focusing on Amendment 150 regarding international students and staff.

HERB – Lords second reading

The economic impact of international students

6 March 2017
This briefing outlines new figures for 2014–15 on the economic impact of international students studying in the UK, including the jobs generated at a regional level and the income they provide local businesses.

Briefing front cover

Parliamentary briefing: Immigration policy and visa ‘refusal threshold’

7 December 2015
This short briefing sets out some background information relevant to the Oral Parliamentary Question of 9 December 2015 asked by Lord Clement-Jones.

Briefing front cover

Parliamentary briefing: Immigration Bill 2015 – Second Reading

12 October 2015
This briefing requests that parliamentarians ask whether there are plans to exempt those recruiting from overseas to posts which are significantly concerned with education and skills training from the immigration skills charge.

Final Universities UK Response Migration Advisory Committee: Review of Tier 2

Consultations and responses
30 September 2015
Students and staff from outside Europe make a vital and business-critical contribution to UK universities.

Migration Advisory Committee: Call for Evidence on Minimum Salary Thresholds for Tier 2

Consultations and responses
3 July 2015
Further to the initial salary review, we gathered evidence to support its submission to the MAC’s wider review of Tier 2.

Report cover

International students in UK higher education: the UK and its competition

25 September 2014
The UK higher education sector's reputation remains strong internationally, but recent immigration reforms have generated both opportunities and threats.

Report cover

International students and the UK immigration debate

25 August 2014
There is strong public support for international student migration, and it is clear that people understand the economic and educational benefits brought to Britain by international students.

Report page

One size fits all? An analysis of the international student’s journey through the UK higher education system

2 June 2014
Examines the different data sources on non-EU students coming to the UK and what the data tells us about students’ destinations once they graduate.

Briefing front cover

Parliamentary briefing: Immigration Bill - Lords’ Second Reading

10 February 2014
Universities UK is concerned about provisions in the Immigration Bill.



What the British public really think about international students

13 April 2017
Karmjit Kaur, Head of Political Affairs at Universities UK, discusses the British public's perception of international students as an asset to the UK, and explains why international students should not be included in a net migration target.

New HESA data on student numbers – our summary

12 January 2017
Eleanor Jubb, Policy Analyst at Universities UK, discusses patterns and trends from HESA's new student data release


Universities UK statement on the triggering of Article 50

29 March 2017
Universities UK's response to the triggering of Article 50.

Response to HESA 2015–16 student data

12 January 2017
Universities UK has responded to the latest data on students from HESA

The team

Jo Attwooll

Jo Attwooll

Programme Manager
Universities UK

Davina Foord

Davina Foord

Policy Researcher
Universities UK