In the letter, they call for a new immigration system 'that acknowledges the vital contribution international students make to regional jobs and growth'. They call also for a 'more open and welcoming message to international students' and for improved post-study work opportunities for qualified international graduates in the UK.
The mayors cite recently-published research by the Higher Education Policy Institute showing that international students provide a net impact of more than £20bn for the UK economy. The study detailed the net economic benefits that international students bring to regions throughout the UK.
London (Mayor Sadiq Khan) – £4.6bn
The West Midlands (Mayor Andy Street) – £1.2bn
Greater Manchester (Mayor Andy Burnham) – £852m
City of Liverpool Region (Mayor Steve Rotheram) – £469m
West of England (Mayor Tim Bowles) – £374m
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough (Mayor James Palmer) – £278m
The Tees Valley (Mayor Ben Houchen) – £203m
Alongside today's letter in the Financial Times, the mayors are also writing to the chair of the Migration Advisory Committee, which provides independent advice to the government on immigration policy.
As elected mayors, we write to highlight the profound and positive impact international students have on our cities and regions.
Recent research shows that international students are a vital source of export earnings for the UK, as well as a source of investment in the UK's towns and cities. International students generate a net economic benefit of over £20bn for the UK economy and in 2014-15 supported over 200,000 jobs in communities across the UK.
International students who studied in our regions in 2015-16 provide a £8 billion net economic benefit. This helps support local businesses and provides a boost for tourism.
These students also enrich our university campuses and the experience of UK students. Many students return home having built strong professional and personal links that benefit our regions, and the UK as a whole in terms of long-lasting, 'soft' diplomatic power.
But while the UK continues to be one of the most attractive destinations in the world for international students, latest recruitment figures show that we have seen a slowdown in recent years, compared to many of our leading competitors.
As the UK prepares to leave the EU, it is important that any future immigration system acknowledges the vital contribution international students make to regional jobs and growth. This includes sending a more open and welcoming message to international students, and improving post-study work opportunities for qualified international graduates in the UK to work and contribute to our regional economies.
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester
Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands
Ben Houchen, Mayor of the Tees Valley
James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough
Tim Bowles, Mayor of the West of England
The new study from the Higher Education Policy Institute – The costs and benefits of international students by parliamentary constituency – was published on Thursday 11 January 2018.
Universities UK's latest analysis of the economic impact of universities – produced by Oxford Economics – revealed that international students (on and off-campus spending and that of their visitors) generated a total of £25.8bn in gross output, and supported 250,000 jobs. For more information, see the media release from October 2017.
Two official reports (Home Office and ONS) published last summer revealed that there is very high visa compliance by international students. The reports revealed that the number of students overstaying their visas is a tiny fraction of previous, incorrect claims. See our media statement from August 2017.