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New constituency-level data prove the value of international students to the UK

  • 20 June 2024
  • By Nick Hillman
  • HEPI and Kaplan International Pathways are publishing data commissioned from London Economics showing – for the first time ever – the value of international students to the UK according to the new parliamentary constituency boundaries.
  • For each of the top three performing constituencies – Leeds Central & Headingley, Sheffield Central and Newcastle upon Tyne Central & West – just one year’s intake of international students is worth half a billion pounds in economic benefits.
  • The benefits of international students to the UK for the top 20 constituencies combined – 17 from England, one from Scotland, one from Wales and one from Northern Ireland – total £8.3 billion. The benefits for the bottom 20 constituencies total just £88 million.
  • The top 10 constituencies include Holborn & St Pancras, which the Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer is fighting to retain and where the benefits are worth £438 million, while the bottom 20 constituencies include Clacton, which the Reform UK Leader Nigel Farage is fighting to win and where the benefits are worth just £5 million.
  • Richmond and Northallerton, which Conservative Leader Rishi Sunak is fighting to retain, comes quite low down the list at number 567, with the benefits amounting to £8 million; Kingston & Surbiton, which Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey is fighting to retain is at number 91, with benefits totalling £146 million.
  • The total gross benefits across the whole UK of one year’s intake of international students amount to £41.9 billion. The total net benefits after taking account of the impact on public services are £37.4 billion. (While the data for the new constituencies have not been published before, these totals were first published last year.)
  • The new data are being sent to candidates so that they can see the importance of international students to the constituencies they are battling to represent in the House of Commons.

Data for all 650 new constituencies can be downloaded here:

Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, said:

‘Surprisingly little information about our country is available at a constituency level. This limits the quality of political debate because a general election is actually 650 smaller battles – one in every constituency.

‘So HEPI and Kaplan International Pathways have teamed up with London Economics to publish new data on the value of international students to the UK at a local level. The data are more up-to-date, more accurate and more useful than any published before. They help to explain the position individual politicians and their parties take towards international students.

‘The new numbers are astounding. In a small handful of individual constituencies, each year’s new group of international students brings in over half a billion pounds a year. At the other end of the scale, there are around 100 constituencies where international students are worth less than £10 million.

‘We will now share the results with election candidates from all the political parties up and down the UK so that they can see the benefits and opportunities for their areas.’

Linda Cowan, Managing Director at Kaplan International Pathways, said:

‘Using updated and more granular census data than previously available and applying it to the new Westminster parliamentary constituencies, this important analysis provides the most accurate picture yet of the net economic impact of international students.

‘Regional inequality is one of the key policy areas for this election and this research reinforces the significant economic benefits that international students bring to communities right across the UK, as well as the many other benefits international students bring to our university communities.

‘With growing competition for international students from countries with world leading institutions, it has never been more important to send a consistent and unambiguous message of welcome to international students.’

James Cannings, Senior Economic Consultant at London Economics, said:

‘The availability of new and improved data on where international students live has allowed us to arrive at more robust estimates of the net economic benefit associated with international students in each parliamentary constituency.

‘We hope that the incoming Government, and every newly elected MP in every constituency, will pay close attention to these findings – both for the sake of the financial sustainability of the higher education sector, but also for the growth of the UK economy as a whole.’

While constituency-level information on international students has been published in the past, these earlier numbers had a number of limitations – for example, due to the limited data available at the time, they used the location of all students as a proxy for where international students live. The new data being published now are based instead on the number of non-UK born full-time students aged 18+ in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland in each area, as recorded in the 2021 Census, and they reflect the revised constituency boundaries. (For further information, see the methodological note at the end.)

The changes mean we have a clearer picture than in the past of which constituencies bring in the most economic benefits from international students and also which are less affected by students from abroad.

Data for every parliamentary constituency is being made available on a gross basis as well as a net basis, after the removal of the limited costs associated with hosting international students.

Notes for Editors

  1. The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) was established in 2002 to influence the higher education debate with evidence. We are UK-wide, independent and non-partisan. We are funded by organisations and higher education institutions that wish to support vibrant policy discussions, as well as through our own events. HEPI is a company limited by guarantee and a registered charity. 
  2. Kaplan International Pathways (Kaplan) is a leading global provider of education and training with an 80-plus-year history offering university pathway programmes, higher education, test preparation, professional education and English-language training. Kaplan works in partnership with universities in the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and with companies around the world. Kaplan is a subsidiary of Graham Holdings Company (NYSE: GHC) and its largest division.
  3. London Economics is one of Europe’s leading specialist economics and policy consultancies, advising an international client base throughout Europe and beyond on a range of issues in education and labour market economics, economic and financial analysis, litigation support, policy development and evaluation, business strategy and regulatory and competition policy. Their consultants are highly qualified economists who apply a wide range of analytical tools to tackle complex problems across the full range of policy spheres. For more information, see
  4. The figures for the total benefits to the UK of hosting international students from which the new constituency-level data are drawn come from work previously published jointly by HEPI, Kaplan International Pathways, Universities UK International and London Economics and which can be found here.

Methodological note

In order to find the net impact for each new constituency, we first find the impact by region, and then apportion that impact by constituency based on the number of students living in each constituency as a proportion of all students living in the region.

At the time of the previous study, which used the old constituency boundaries, no specific data were available on the residencies of international higher education students. Instead, we used figures for all full-time students in the UK (regardless of domicile or nationality) usually resident in each constituency as a proxy. We used 2021 Census data for students aged 16+ in England and Wales and 2011 Census data for students aged 18-74 in Scotland and Northern Ireland, as that was the best and most recent data available at the time.

However, more granular census data have since been released, and it is now possible to identify the number of non-UK born full-time students aged 18+ in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland from the 2021 Census, so we use that data instead of the original data for all full-time students (regardless of nationality). While this still differs from the Higher Education Statistics Agency’s definition of ‘internationally domiciled students’ (as international domicile does not perfectly match being born outside the UK), it constitutes a better proxy of the location of residence of international higher education students than the previous data that were used (as the focus is non-UK born students and 16- and 17-year-olds are excluded).

Unfortunately, corresponding new information for Scotland (from the 2022 Scottish Census) is not yet available. For Scotland, we therefore use the 2011 Census data for all full-time students aged 18-74 as before, but with the updated parliamentary constituencies.

As a result of these changes, the results are much more concentrated in specific constituencies than previously, with significantly larger impacts in higher-ranking constituencies and significantly smaller impacts in lower-ranking constituencies. This is because the new data better reflect the distribution of international higher education students around HEIs with large numbers of international students.

We also updated the constituency-level total population data used to calculate economic impact figures per resident in each constituency. Previously, we used mid-2020 population estimates for these figures; however, 2021 Census (for England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and 2022 Census (for Scotland) figures have since become available, so these have been used instead. This data update has had a minimal effect on the results by constituency.

Apart from the changes listed above and the use of the new parliamentary constituency boundaries, the methodology is the same as for the previously published study using the old parliamentary boundaries, and all aggregate results (including by region) remain the same. The earlier work is available here:


  1. Albert Wright says:

    The positive spin ingrained in this project is based on a flawed use of the “ripple down” effect which results in the “benefits” claimed being over double the real position.

    It is inappropriate and misleading to claim, for example, that the £20,000 fee paid to universites for a 1 year taught post graduate course results in a benefit of over £40K because the university uses the money to pay staff etc £20k for their services.

    The formula is flawed.

    It is true that money circulates in the economy when the fees paid by overseas students are paid to university employees as wages, which are then spent by those employees on the goods and services they buy for their own consumption but this does not and should not be counted as an addtional benefit to the country.

    We do not count the benefit to society for domestic students in this way and nor should we.

  2. Joe Cronin says:

    Bournemouth has a high no of international students who bring life and colour to the city. I’m sure the beginning of many friendships and relationships. I hope they feel welcomed by the decent people of Poole and Bournemouth.

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