Ahead of the EU referendum in June, Universities UK has released an analysis of data showing that EU students at universities in the UK contribute over £3.7bn to the economy.
Based on data from 2011/12, the analysis also found that European students supported 34,250 jobs in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Across the UK, EU students spend £220m on-campus, which includes fees and costs to universities, in turn generating £1.44bn.
The students’ off-campus spending, which includes rent and food, totals £1.49bn, contributing £2.27bn to local and national economies.
Unsurprisingly, the location benefitting the most financially from EU students was London, with the region seeing a £788.9m income boost that supported 7,580 jobs as a result.
Beyond England, Scotland saw European students generate £414.1m for the country’s economy, supporting 3,743 jobs, while the Welsh economy benefitted £132.9m from EU students, and 1,264 jobs were maintained.
“The figures show clearly that EU students spend money and create jobs in all regions and corners of the UK”
And in Northern Ireland, EU students added £78.1m to the economy.
The analysis draws on HESA student data, Department and Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland, studies of higher education undertaken for Universities Wales, studies carried out for the University of Glasgow and UUK’s own 2014 publication The impact of universities on the UK economy.
“EU students make an enormous contribution to British university life and local communities,” said Dame Julia Goodfellow, president of Universities UK.
“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,” she added.
The research comes just two months before the referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU on June 23 and gives weight to the campaign Universities UK have spearheaded, Universities for Europe.
The organisation launched the project last summer in a bid to back the country’s membership in the EU.
“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,” said Goodfellow.
While the analysis looks at the data from four years ago, currently EU students make up 5% of the UK’s student population, some 125,000 students.
Among European source countries for UK universities, Germany is the top sender with 13,675 students, followed by France with 11,955 and Ireland with 10,905. Italy and Greece complete the top five.
Jo Johnson, Universities and Science Minister, said the UK’s success as a knowledge economy is very reliant on the 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,” he said.