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Pounded, or quids-in? The impact of a weak pound on UK migration

21 Apr 2017

The fall in the value of the pound has reduced the cost of studying in the UK for those paying with foreign currency by up to 20%, but reduced the value of UK earnings sent abroad – potentially making the country less attractive to foreign workers, a new analysis from the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford shows today.

The commentary – Pounded? Currency devaluation and migration to and from the UK – shows that the post-referendum drop in Sterling’s value against other currencies has had a series of impacts that have different consequences for various categories of migrants in the UK. Migrants who use foreign currencies to buy UK services – such as international students  – benefit from lower costs, while workers supporting families overseas have seen a significant fall in the value of their income.

Nearly 30% of foreign students in the UK came from China in 2015/16. If these students were using the Chinese Yuan to pay for their education in the UK, the cost would have been 13% lower in December 2016 than before the referendum in June. For students paying in US Dollars, that saving would have been 17% and for those paying in South African Rand, it would have been almost 20%.

However the many workers – both British and foreign citizens – who send money earned in the UK to friends, family and associates abroad, have seen the value of the money they send fall significantly. Family members in Poland receiving Zloty in exchange for Sterling would have received nearly 10% less from the same sum sent in December, compared to the period before the referendum last year, while those receiving Indian Rupees in exchange for pounds would have seen a fall of nearly 15%.

Dr Carlos Vargas-Silva, acting director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said: “The fall in the value of the pound has created winners and losers. Fees for university courses are now, often, thousands of dollars cheaper for foreign students. But UK residents who earn money in Britain and send it to family and friends overseas now provide less to those people in exchange for each pound they send.”


For further information contact:

Rob McNeil, Head of Media and Communications, The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.

e: robert.mcneil@compas.ox.ac.uk;  Tel: 01865 274568;  Mob: 07500 970081

Notes for editors:

About the Migration Observatory

  • Based at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford, the Migration Observatory provides independent, authoritative, evidence-based analysis of data on migration and migrants in the UK, to inform media, public and policy debates, and to generate high quality research on international migration and public policy issues. The Observatory’s analysis involves experts from a wide range of disciplines and departments at the University of Oxford.
  • The Migration Observatory is funded by: the Barrow Cadbury Trust, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Unbound Philanthropy, and has also received support from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
  • The Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford conducts high quality research in order to develop theory and knowledge, inform policy-making and public debate, and engage users of research within the field of migration. For further details see the COMPAS website: compas.ox.ac.uk/.

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