Metro and city mayors sign letter highlighting regional impact of international students

18 January 2018
The six elected metro mayors in England, alongside the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, have signed a joint letter – published today in the Financial Times – highlighting the positive impact international students have on our cities and regions.

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.​​

For the mayoral cities and regions in question, international students bring a net economic benefit of:

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.


The mayors' letter ​to the Financial Times in full:

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


  1. 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.

  1. 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.​

  1. 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.

Key Contacts

Steven Jefferies

Steven Jefferies

Head of Media
Universities UK

Eloise Phillips

Eloise Phillips

Media Officer
Universities UK

Clara Plackett

Clara Plackett

Senior Media Officer
Universities UK


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