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Domestic outcomes not impacted by international students, study finds


The study, published in the European Economic Review by researchers at University College London and the Universities of Surrey and Essex, analysed whether international students in undergraduate programs affect the educational performances and early labour market outcomes of UK-domiciled students.

“Our study helps to answer the question of what impact international students have on the UK economy by looking at specific aspects that have never been studied before at the national level,” said study co-author Greta Morando, IOE, University College London’s Faculty of Education and Society.

The researchers analysed data from undergraduate students enrolled at universities in England during the academic years 2007/8-2010/11, to examine the variation in exposure to international students in university programs across different cohorts.

“We find no evidence of international students being detrimental for native students’ probability of graduating and for their degree classification, nor do we find a significant impact on natives’ labour market participation and quality of job at six months after graduation” said Morando.

By linking HESA student record data and data from Destination of Leavers from Higher Education, researchers tracked the outcomes of graduates six months after graduation.

The researchers highlighted some evidence that non-EU students have a positive impact on the salary of domestic students, especially among high-ability graduates.

The study – with its sample of some 509,900 students – also analysed whether students switched between university or subject types during their studies, and found “marginally relevant” findings of international students, specifically EU-domiciled students, having some effects on the retention of domestic students in non-STEM programmes, instead seeing them switch to a STEM degree.

According to UCL, further analysis showed that students that make such changes have better performances in terms of probability of graduating and degree classification.

One stakeholder who welcomes the overall findings of the research is Sarah Cooper, careers consultant at the University of Bristol.

“We know that international graduates are filling important skills gaps, helping to grow exports through their language skills and home country market knowledge and enabling employers to diversify their workforces,” Cooper told The PIE.

“This kind of research is vital to demonstrate that UK higher education institutions’ global campuses are a ‘win win’ for students, the sector and the UK as a whole.

“Government needs to invest in ongoing research of this kind”

“Government needs to invest in ongoing research of this kind so that decisions around work visa routes are based on evidence and an holistic understanding of our internationalised higher education sector.”

Cooper is not alone in her fears for the future of the UK’s Graduate Route, following on from the government’s announcement that it will review the two-year visa option for international graduates.

The researchers of the report too are calling for their findings to be considered in the context of the benefits that international students provide to the UK.

“International students also contribute to cross-subsidise UK students’ participation in higher education through tuition revenue,” highlighted UCL in its statement.

“International students contribute to the economy, help to fund universities, and can enrich the experiences of all university students, by contributing to the diversity of the student body,” said Morando.

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