EU students vital to regional economies and jobs

8 April 2016

EU students at UK universities generate £3.7bn for the UK economy and support over 34,000 jobs in all corners of the country, according to analysis from Universities UK.

The new analysis looks at the impact of EU students across all regions and nations of the UK. Currently, there are around 125,000 students from other EU countries studying at UK universities, representing 5% of the total UK student population (the top 5 EU countries sending students to the UK are: Germany [13,675 students], France [11,955], Ireland [10,905], Italy [10,525] and Greece [10,130]).

The analysis (which is based on 2011-12 student number figures) shows that:

  • EU students spent £220m on campus (money paid directly to universities in fees and costs) - generating £1.44bn for the UK economy.

  • They also spent £1.49bn on goods and services off-campus (such as food, rent, going out etc) - generating a further £2.27bn.

  • This combined (on-campus and off-campus) expenditure generated a total of £3.7bn for the whole UK economy.

  • Through their on-campus expenditure (supporting 15,252 jobs) and spending off-campus (supporting 18,998 jobs), EU students supported or created a total of 34,250 (FTE) jobs throughout the UK.

The analysis showed the impact of EU students across all regions and nations of the UK:  

  • In the East of England, EU students generated £247.5m for the regional economy and 2,295 jobs

  • In the East Midlands, EU students generated £143m for the regional economy and 1,341 jobs

  • In London, EU students generated £788.9m for the regional economy and 7,580 jobs

  • In the North East of England, students generated £82m for the regional economy and 770 jobs

  • In the North West of England, EU students generated £221.6m for the regional economy and 2,112 jobs

  • In the South East of England, EU students generated £420.3m for the regional economy and 4,021 jobs

  • In the South West of England, EU students generated £168.2m for the regional economy and 1,481 jobs

  • In the West Midlands, EU students generated £219m for the regional economy and 2,079 jobs

  • In Yorkshire and Humberside, EU students generated £167.7m for the regional economy and 1,638 jobs

  • In Scotland, EU students generated £414.1 for the economy and 3,743 jobs

  • In Northern Ireland, EU students generated £78.1m for the economy and 841 jobs

  • In Wales, EU students generated £132.9m for the economy and 1,264 jobs

Commenting on the figures, Dame Julia Goodfellow, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Kent, said:

"EU students make an enormous contribution to British university life and local communities. The figures show clearly that EU students spend money and create jobs in all regions and corners of the UK. EU students also make a very important academic and cultural contribution to university life, creating an international, outward-looking culture on campuses which, in turn, benefits UK students.

"Leaving the EU and putting up barriers to work and study makes it more likely that European students and researchers will choose to go elsewhere, strengthening our competitors and weakening the UK's universities."

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: "Our success as a knowledge economy hinges on our ability to collaborate with the best minds from across Europe and the world.

"It would be reckless to cut ourselves off from the rich sources of EU funding, the access to valuable shared research facilities and the close institutional ties that provide so many opportunities to British students and academics.

"UK students benefit from their ability to study across the EU, while EU students generate billions for the UK economy, support thousands of jobs and enrich university life. I share the clear view of my predecessors and the majority of university leaders that our world-class universities and our scientific prowess will be much better off inside the EU."



  1. The analysis looks at the impact of EU students across the regions of the UK and was prepared for Universities UK by Ursula Kelly, Viewforth Consulting Ltd. The regions and nations covered in the analysis are the nine English regions (East of England; East Midlands; London; North East; North West; South East; South West; West Midlands; and Yorkshire and Humberside) together with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  2. The primary source for all English regions is the analysis contained in The impact of universities on the UK economy (UUK 2014), which is based on the 2011–12 year. For Wales, the analysis drew on studies of higher education undertaken for Universities Wales (2013, 2015) (these more recent figures for 2013-14 show EU students generated £150.3m for the UK economy [£118m in Wales] and 1,403 FTE jobs [1,124 in Wales]).  For Northern Ireland, a study was prepared by the Department and Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland (2015). For Scotland, the analysis drew on a study undertaken for the University of Glasgow (2016) which had included disaggregated analysis of EU student impact on Scotland and the rest of the UK. All of the studies were undertaken within the same overall modelling framework, hence are compatible. The work rebased all of the figures on 2011-12 for internal consistency and used the student numbers for 2011-12 ( HESA 2013).

  3. The total impact of all the regions will sum to the UK-wide impact but the sum of the specifically identified  impact on each region will be less than the total UK impact - with the remaining  impact ( in this case c. 5000 jobs and £600m of output) being spread across the UK but without being attributed to any specific region.

  4. The figures in paragraph two are based on the HESA record for academic year 2014-15.

  5. The Universities for Europe campaign has also highlighted how membership of the European Union enhances international collaboration between researchers, enabling ground-breaking research that improves people's lives in the UK - from medicine and healthcare to new materials, products and services. Working together, UK and European researchers can pool their resources, expertise, data and infrastructure to achieve more together than they could do alone. UK universities received just under €5 billion of research funding over the period 2007 to 2013 (European Commission, 2014). Clickhere to see case studies from academics in the UK on why, and how, the EU has helped them to collaborate on important research projects.

  6. Being in the EU also makes it easier for UK universities to attract talented staff from across Europe. 15% of academic staff at UK universities are from other EU countries.

  7. Membership of the EU also enables UK students to study in other parts of the EU. For example, over 200,000 UK students and 20,000 UK university staff have spent time abroad through the Erasmus exchange programme, enhancing their employability and promoting understanding between people and cultures.

  8. The Universities for Europe campaign, led by Universities UK, is ensuring that the university sector is a strong, positive voice in the referendum debate. The campaign promotes powerful evidence and highlights compelling stories about the benefits of EU membership for the UK's universities, and the British people. For more information (facts and figures) and the latest campaign updates, visit:

  9. Universities UK is the representative organisation for the UK's universities. Founded in 1918, its mission is to be the definitive voice for all universities in the UK, providing high quality leadership and support to its members to promote a successful and diverse higher education sector. With 133 members and offices in London, Cardiff (Universities Wales) and Edinburgh (Universities Scotland), it promotes the strength and success of UK universities nationally and internationally. Visit:​

Our team


Shorter mobility programmes break down barriers to participation and deliver impact, finds new report

24 June 2021
A new report by UUKi: ‘Short-term mobility: long-term impact’ has found that mobility programmes of just a few weeks can provide tangible outcomes for students.

Stanford University

Exploring the Other – My short-term mobility experience

22 June 2021
Rachel Saunders, PhD Candidate at the University of Nottingham describes how going abroad for a short period helped her broaden her horizons and begin her career.