New report launched – The Economic Impact of International Students in Wales

Study shows International Students studying at Welsh universities are bringing a significant and positive economic benefit to Wales.

A new study by higher education experts shows that international students studying at universities in Wales are making an important and immediate impact on the Welsh economy. The strength of Welsh universities in attracting students from all over the world to study in Wales attracts additional money into Wales and boosts export earningsInternational students at Welsh universities, together with the expenditure of visitors connected to those students, generated £530 million of export earnings[1], equivalent to 4% of all Welsh exports 2014.

In 2013 Welsh universities attracted over 25,600 students (19% of the total Welsh university student population) from 145 countries to come to study in Wales, creating important cultural and economic links between Wales and the world. The development of global links is a major longer-term advantage of attracting international students, but communities across Wales benefit from their direct and immediate impact on the economy.

As well as paying tuition and other fees to universities, students spend money off-campus and also attract additional short-stay leisure visitors in the form of family and friends from abroad (approx. 50,180 in 2013/14), who spend money on hotel accommodation and local amenities. This creates jobs in Wales and contributes to Welsh GVA. The report concludes that international students and their visitors generate some £400m of Welsh GVA and create over 7,600 jobs in Wales.  Furthermore, the off-campus personal expenditure of students and visitors is equivalent to over 7% of the spending of all visitors to Wales[2].

The report by Viewforth Consulting updates a similar study of the impact of international students in Wales previously undertaken in 2011[3]. Additionally, for the first time this work includes an extended analysis of the economic impact of Welsh universities across all the regions of Wales. This work found that every area of Wales benefits from the ‘knock-on’ effects of Welsh universities’ international student and visitor expenditure, regardless of whether they have a local university presence. Through the construction of a Wales-specific model, Viewforth Consulting have been able to demonstrate how economic impact flows further afield from areas that do not have a university through “ripple effects”. The report shows that £89m of GVA was generated (nearly 22% of the total) and 1756 jobs created (nearly 23% of the total) by Welsh universities in parts of Wales that do not have a university on their doorstep.

Given the substantial cultural and economic impact of Welsh universities’ international activities, Universities Wales has joined together with the Welsh Government, British Council Wales and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) to form the new ‘Global Wales’ partnership. The partnership, also being launched today, will promote Welsh universities in key overseas markets with a view to building new collaborative ventures, increasing Wales’ visibility overseas and attracting further investment to Wales. The programme aims to boost both student recruitment and research collaboration through joint outward missions, inward visits and further promotional activities through the delivery of the ‘Study in Wales’ brand.

Education Minister, Huw Lewis said: “ Wales is increasingly gaining international recognition as an excellent place to  study  and live, and this report proves that as well as enriching our culture , international students are also making  a huge contribution to our wider Welsh economy .

“This report really does  show the genuine value that the higher education sector brings to our economy  and it only serves to emphasise the importance of building, fostering and developing strong links with higher education institutions from across the world”.

Chair of Universities Wales and Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University, Professor Colin Riordan said: The role that Welsh Universities play in the economy is now well recognised, with a recent report by Universities Wales demonstrating their economic impact through job creation and the generation of GVA in Wales. I’m pleased with the findings of today’s report, which show international students at our Welsh universities form a significant part of this impact in Wales. The economic, social and cultural impact of international students at our universities should be celebrated, and we hope that the report underlines the importance of Welsh universities’ ability to continue to attract students from abroad.

“With this in mind, it is more important than ever that together with the Welsh Government, we work on finding the solutions to the short-term challenges facing the sector, such as the limitations to the post-study work visa introduced by the UK government. We must ensure that these arrangements do not present a barrier to recruitment in Wales, so that our international relationships can continue both to deliver an immediate impact on the economy and develop longer-term global links by raising the countrys profile and attracting investment.

 Jenny Scott, Director British Council Wales said:  Higher education is one of Wales’ most valuable cultural assets and the growing population of international students at our world class universities is helping Wales build lasting friendships with the rest of the world. As this timely report demonstrates, the huge cultural value of international student mobility is matched by the economic value such students and their families bring to communities right across Wales.”

“Global Wales will create new platforms for Welsh universities to promote themselves internationally. I hope this will lead to a further increase in students choosing to study in Wales, additional opportunities for research collaboration between Welsh universities and partners overseas and a further strengthening of Wales’ global connections.”

The study will be highlighted by the Education Minister at a Wales on Europe Forum event in Cardiff, which also focused on the importance of educational organisations and students from Wales taking full advantage of the benefits of the European Union’s ERASMUS+ funding programme. Worth around 14.7 billion Euros, ERASMUS+ provides opportunities for Europeans to study, train, and gain work experience and volunteer abroad, as well as support transnational partnerships between education, training and youth organisations to encourage innovation and best practice.

[1] This does not  include income to Wales from the rest of the UK (primarily England) or business tourism

[2] The Welsh Government Strategy for Tourism 2013-2020 (2013). The Welsh Tourism Satellite Account estimated visitor spending (all visitors) in Wales to be £4.5 billion in 2011.

[3] The economic impact of International and EU Students in Wales Oxford Economics (2011) for Universities Wales (previously Higher Education Wales)