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Foreign students worth £17.3m to Northern Ireland economy

British Council report highlights slant towards international education system

By Lisa Smyth

Over £17m is generated each year for the Northern Ireland economy from the tuition fees of international students, it was revealed today.

According to a new report by the British Council, students who choose Northern Ireland as a study destination are worth £17.3m to the economy annually.

However, this is greatly overshadowed by the amount of money created in other parts of the United Kingdom.

In London, £432.4m is generated, while £127.9m is generated in Scotland and in Wales the figure is almost three times as much as that in Northern Ireland at £51.4m.

The report, Global Value - The Value of UK Education and Training Exports: an Update - shows that the total value of international students to the UK has risen by 39% from £6.1bn since the British Council's previous study in 20041.

For the first time the report includes a breakdown of the value of international students' tuition fees to different parts of the UK.

The research was carried out by Dr Pamela Lenton at the University of Sheffield on behalf of the British Council.

Other findings in the report show that the total direct value of education and training exports to the UK economy are £12.5bn - up from £11bn in 2004 - and when consultancy services are included the figure rises to £28bn - up from £23bn in 2004.

Martin Davidson, CEO of the British Council said: "Fundamentally this report shows the shift of axis of our education system - from one that operates predominantly domestically to one that operates on a truly international basis.

" This report clearly shows the economic value of international students to the economy of the UK.

"However, for the UK, international education is not merely an export industry. It enriches our society in many ways by deepening our awareness and understanding of other cultures, and likewise deepening others' awareness and understanding of our own.

" The presence of international students helps to ensure that a greater diversity of programmes is available for home students. They provide a driver to maintain high quality course provision as UK universities compete in an increasingly competitive market to attract them. They also enrich the diversity of campuses and communities and help to broaden the outlook and understanding of British students as they prepare to join a global workplace. "

As the UK's leading cultural relations agency, the role of the British Council is to encourage appreciation of the UK in the world and understanding of the world in the UK.

Education is at the heart of everything the British Council does, from linking schoolchildren in the UK with schoolchildren around the world, promoting the UK's creative ideas and achievements, working with governments around the world on education reform and through running leadership programmes in sport.

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