Calendar year 2020

UK revenue from education related exports and transnational education activity

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  1. The upcoming publication of UK revenue from education related exports and transnational activity for calendar year 2021 has been delayed from December 2023 to March 2024, where we will also publish statistics for calendar year 2022.

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Estimates of UK revenue from education-related exports and transnational education (TNE) activity for 2020.

TNE activity includes education programmes that take place outside the UK, either through partner institutions, or directly through distance learning or international campuses.

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This year's update includes estimates for UK education related exports and TNE activity for 2020. The UK economy was heavily impacted by the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in 2020. Analysis by the Office for National Statistics suggests that UK trade in goods and services fell in 2020 as a consequence of the pandemic. In addition, the education system suffered from weeks of school, college and university closures. As such, 2020 estimates must be used with care to reflect this unusual context.

Figure 1 below shows the increase in UK education related exports and TNE activity to £25.6 billion (current prices) in 2020. The revenue from UK education related exports and TNE activity has grown steadily since 2010. The overall revenue has increased by 61.2% or £9.7 billion in current prices since 2010. UK education related exports account for £8.5 billion of the £9.7 billion increase with UK TNE accounting for the remaining £1.2 billion. 

Since 2010, total UK education related exports have grown by 57.5% in current prices. TNE activity has grown at a significantly faster rate of 112.9% over the same period. However, this growth has occurred from a lower base, £1.1 billion for TNE activity compared to £14.8 billion for total UK education related exports.

Between 2019 and 2020 total UK education exports and TNE activity grew by 0.8%, This is 7.0 percentage points lower than the rate of growth seen between 2018 and 2019. This reflects the lower growth rate in total UK education related exports which grew by 0.5% between 2019 and 2020, compared to 8.0% in the previous year. However, UK TNE activity has grown by 4.1% between 2019 and 2020. This is the second consecutive year of TNE activity growth since it decreased between 2017 and 2018.

Figures 2a and 2b below show the composition of revenue streams in total UK education related exports and TNE activity in 2020. 

Higher Education was the main contributor with £19.5 billion of export revenue. In comparison, Further Education, which consists of non-EU students only, accounted for £0.2 billion (see methodology for further information on how this is calculated). 

The income generated from Education Products and Services and TNE activity is broadly similar, with around £2.1 billion and £2.3 billion worth of revenue generated, respectively. English Language Training and Independent Schools generated £0.5 billion and £1.0 billion, respectively.

Over the period 2010 to 2020, the share of Higher Education to the total revenue from UK education related exports and TNE activity has increased by 16.3 percentage points from 76.3%. 

UK TNE activity has increased by 2.2 percentage points over the same period from 6.7% to 8.9%. The share of English Language Training (ELT) and Further Education (non-EU students only) have both fallen by 12.2 and 5.2 percentage points, respectively: the ELT share dropping from 14.0% to 1.8% and the Further Education share dropping from 5.8% to 0.6%.

In 2020, international (EU and non-EU) Higher Education students at UK universities generated an estimated £18.0 billion in exports through living expenditure and tuition fees (£15.9 billion in 2019), which accounts for around 70.2% of the total value of education exports and TNE activity (62.6% in 2019).

The remaining £1.5 billion of exports revenue generated from Higher Education is made of research contracts and other exports income. 

Table 3 below gives a detailed breakdown of UK revenue from education related exports and TNE activity, within each revenue stream and since 2010.

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Find out how and why we collect, process and publish these statistics.

Experimental statistics

These statistics are experimental statistics undergoing evaluation. They have been developed under the guidance of the Head of Profession for Statistics and published to involve users and stakeholders at an early stage in assessing their suitability and quality.

Experimental official statistics have been produced as far as possible in line with the Code of Practice for Statistics.

This can be broadly interpreted to mean that these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

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If you have a specific enquiry about UK revenue from education related exports and transnational education activity statistics and data:

Higher Education Analysis

Contact name: Matt Poullin
Telephone: 07880107283

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