According to research conducted by Universities UK, the organisation which represents UK universities, students from EU member countries generate £3.7bn for the UK economy, and support over 34,000 jobs throughout the country.
Based on student numbers from 2011-12, the research showed that on-campus spending of £220m, on fees and course costs, generated £1.44bn, whilst an off-campus expenditure of £1.49, on goods and services, generated £2.27bn. UUK also claim that through their combined on and off campus expenditure, EU students supported or created 34,250 jobs throughout the UK.
The data revealed the region which benefits the most from the roughly 125,000 EU students who study at UK higher education institutions, is London, which receives £788.9m in income and support for over 7,500 jobs, whilst Northern Ireland receives the least, at only £78.1m in income and 841 jobs.
However, this news comes at the same times as Vote In campaigners suggest that a vote to leave the EU in the upcoming referendum would negatively impact the number of students from the EU who would come to study in the UK. Jo Johnson, the Universities Minister, said: “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”.
President of UUK, and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Kent, Julia Goodfellow, commented that the data not only shows that EU students provide a financial contribution to the economy, but that “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”.
However, Vote Leave campaigners, insist that Brexit would have no negative impacts on the number of EU students coming to study in the UK, and that it would allow UK institutions to create stronger links with universities outside of Europe. Angus Dalgleish, professor of oncology at St. George’s, University of London, argued that the £3.7bn figure quoted by UUK does not take into consideration the amount of money lost “from EU students taking out student loans and not paying them back”.
Professor David Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of UEA, said: ‘[These] figures reveal that the university and region have benefited enormously from the EU students who come to study here. I am proud that students from across Europe choose to study at the UEA. Around 10 per cent of our staff and students come from the EU, they make an enormous contribution to academic life and to the student experience. UEA currently has 60 ongoing research projects with EU partners worth £20 million. EU students and research partnerships support our economy by boosting regional growth and creating jobs for local people”.
Last month, Richardson announced that he advocated the UK voting to remain in the EU. Writing on his blog, he said: “Leaving would mean cutting ourselves off from unique support and established networks and would undermine the UK’s position as a global leader in science, arts and innovation.
“It is more important than ever that we break down barriers to working with international partners to share expertise and knowledge.
“Both UEA and UK Universities are in the Remain camp. The evidence shows that our universities will be significantly stronger and more effective at meeting global challenges if we stay in the EU”.