Universities: EU students contribute millions of pounds a year to London's economy

Emma Haslett
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Students From The School Of Arts And Creative Industries At South Bank University Graduate
Yep: this lot make millions for London's economy (Source: Getty)

Thought there was anyone left who hadn't waded into the Brexit debate? Think again: this morning universities joined the fray, pointing out that students from EU countries contribute millions of pounds a year to London's economy.

Universities UK, essentially a trade body for UK colleges, said EU students at London's universities generated £788m for the region's economy in 2011-12, as well as creating 7,580 jobs.

According to the figures, students contributed £327m a year to the regional economy through on-campus spending (fees, warm student union beer, etc), and £461m off-campus expenditure.

Meanwhile, EU students made £420m for the South East of England, £414m for Scotland and £247.5m for the East of England, according to the figures.

Not surprisingly, then, Universities UK pointed out Brexit would present a tricky situation, not just for educators, but for those around them. With students currently - controversially - included in the net migration target, quitting the EU would also mean a significant drop in the number of EU students coming to the UK.

"Our success as a knowledge economy hinges on our ability to collaborate with the best minds from across Europe and the world," said Jo Johnson, the universities and science minister (who also, rather awkwardly, happens to be outspoken Brexiteer Boris Johnson's brother).

“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."

But while £788m a year is unarguably a big number, it's quite a drop from a previous estimate of £2.3bn, put forward by London First in May last year. Strange...

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