Northern Ireland has the lowest share of international students in the UK
Many institutions are hit by Brexit. Source: Shutterstock

While worth hundreds of millions to Northern Ireland (NI), the country is found to host the lowest share of international students of any UK region.

According to the BBC, its constituencies also make up half of the 20 parliamentary constituencies in the UK which benefited the least from international students, a new report by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) has found.

For academic year 2015/16, 2,445 international students had started undergraduate or postgraduate courses in NI. They each bring GBP95,000 to the UK economy for the duration of their study – a total of GBP170 million altogether.

Students who aren’t from NI, EU or the UK typically pay much higher fees – for some medical courses in NI, the fees can be up to GBP37,000 more per year.

The report on the economic costs linked to the 231,065 international students in the UK for academic year 2015/16 had looked at how much they contributed financially to the economy. Their spending on tuition fees, accommodation and other living expenses were analysed against the costs on taxpayers, pressure on local services as well as university teaching.

It also calculated how much each parliamentary constituency benefited – South Belfast took in a net contribution of 29 million into the area’s economy.

However, NI constituencies were found to be among those with the least economic contribution from international students. Half of the 20 constituencies identified by the report to have the least benefit from international students are NI constituencies.

Their numbers could be falling further still with Brexit.

What may have been ease of travel between NI and the Republic of Ireland may no longer be so.

Fees are another major concern, as EU citizens would no longer be charged the same fees as someone from the UK. Post-Brexit, their cost of education could go up by several thousand.

These concerns must be acted upon to try to ensure there is no decrease in international students in Northern Ireland, National Union of Students – Union of Students in Ireland (NUS-USI) president Olivia Potter-Hughes said.

“We want to ensure that Northern Ireland and the UK [are] welcoming and attract as many international and EU students as possible,” Potter-Hughes said.

“International students must not be seen as cash cows and we are worried that international student fees could rise as a result of Brexit as these students may be cynically used to make up for any loss of EU research and other funding.”

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