Higher education delivers 70% of UK’s education exports revenue

New government figures show higher education activity brings overall education exports to £25.2bn, as government chases 2030 target of £35 billion

The UK higher education sector brought in 70% of the country’s total revenue from education-related exports and transnational education (TNE) in 2019, according to new figures released today by the Department for Education (DfE).

Education-related exports and TNE activity (ie students taught by UK educational institutions at overseas campuses) generated an estimated £25.2bn for the UK economy in 2019, according to new government figures. This total is up 8.1% from 2018, and is a combination of education-related exports (ie research and other contracts), tuition fees and living expenditure from international students, and TNE.

Higher education-related exports were by far the biggest contributor to the overall total, bringing in £17.6 billion – and nearly 70% – of all education export revenue in 2019. This share of the total revenue has increased by 9.8 percentage points from 60.0% to 69.8% over the period 2010 to 2019.

Of higher education’s contribution, around 63% – £15.8bn – came from international (EU and non-EU) HE students at UK universities, in the form of tuition fees and living expenditure. This is an increase from £14.2 billion, and 61%, in 2018. Within this, revenue from non-EU students rose to £6.22bn from £2.7bn in 2010.

£1.55bn came from research and other contracts – up from £0.76bn in 2010. TNE generated £0.69bn – an increase from £0.35bn in 2010.

“The UK’s education sector is rightly the envy of the world, drawing the best and brightest from every corner of the globe,” said skills minister Alex Burghart.

“Today’s figures are a reminder that our global education offer not only enriches our communities with diverse talent, but is also a serious asset for UK PLC – which will we continue to support as we build back better from Covid-19.”

In its International Education Strategy (IES) published in March 2019 – and refreshed in February 2021 in the light of Covid-19 – the government stated its ambition to, by 2030, increase the value of UK education exports to £35 billion per year, and sustainably increase the number of international higher education students hosted in the UK to at least 600,000 per year.


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