International students in the South West boost UK economy by £2.2 billion


A new report on the intake of international students in the 2021/22 academic year found they contributed £41.9 billion to the UK economy, and £2.2 billion was contributed to the South West economy alone.

The report by Universities UK, Higher Education Policy Institute, Kaplan International Pathways and London Economics was commissioned to explore the impact of international students to the UK economy and revealed the total economic benefits have risen from £31.3 billion to £41.9 billion between 2018/19 and 2021/22, an increase of 34%.

The University of Exeter has three campuses across Devon and Cornwall and international students make an enormous economic contribution to both counties – £486m in Devon, £182.5m in Cornwall, and £140.7m in Exeter alone.  

The average net impact associated with the 2021/22 cohort per parliamentary constituency for the South West was £39m from 360 first year students, providing a net impact per resident of £370 across the region.

Professor Lisa Roberts, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Exeter said: “I am extremely pleased that this report has been launched to highlight the significant importance and enormous contribution that international students make to our universities, local communities and our local and national economies.”

“We are proud that our university continues to attract students from across the globe to Devon and Cornwall.  Our Strategy 2030 highlights the importance of our international university community to lead the progress towards creating a fair, socially just and inclusive society.”

In a separate independent economic impact study launched by the University of Exeter last year, it was revealed that the university contributes almost £1.6 billion of output to the UK economy and supports 15,500 jobs through its economic activities and the impact of student and visitor spending.

The study from last year also revealed that The University of Exeter has a profound impact upon the South West, including the generation of Gross Value Added (GVA) equivalent to 9% of Exeter’s GDP, supporting around 3% of Devon’s workforce as the third largest employer in the county, and the creation of more than £125 million in output for Cornwall’s economy.

Professor Martin Siegert, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Cornwall at The University of Exeter said: “Universities play a vital role in UK society and we should continue to welcome international students to our institutions and create a diverse community across the region.

“We are focused on making a positive impact on the economy in Cornwall and supporting the region’s aspirations, and the contribution that international students bring must not be underestimated.”

The full report can be read here: ‘The costs and benefits of international higher education students to the UK’

For more information on the Economic Impact Study launched last year, visit: