INTERNATIONAL students generate nearly £2 billion to the Scottish economy in tuition fees and wider spending, new figures show.

A report by London Economics, on behalf of the Higher Education Policy Institute, found overseas students at Scottish universities generated £1.94 billion.

The analysis, compiled to demonstrate the potential loss of tougher Home Office immigration controls on overseas students, found the combined UK benefit of the 231,000 new overseas students recruited each year across the UK was a combined £22.6 billion.

A spokesman for Universities Scotland, which represents principals, said the study further underlined the value of international students to the country.

He said: “International students generating almost £2 billion of net impact for the Scottish economy is great news. This equates to £365 for every Scot.

“International students offer much more than economic contribution. They are highly motivated students who develop friendships and professional relationships with Scots that last a lifetime.

“We know international students are given a big welcome to Scotland from all Scots, not just those in higher education, and we know that international students highly value their time here, cementing Scotland’s reputation as one of the best higher education sectors in the world.”

Nick Hillman, director of HEPI, said international students brought economic benefits to the UK that were worth ten times the cost of hosting them.

He said: “Trying to persuade the Home Office that international students nearly always benefit the UK can feel like banging one’s head against a brick wall.

“In the past, they have not accepted figures on the benefits on the grounds that they ignore the costs. Our work, in contrast, includes all the potential costs and conclusively proves these are small compared to the huge benefits.

“We now implore UK ministers and civil servants … to take this new evidence with the seriousness that it merits.”