International students are worth £20 billion to the UK economy.
The analysis said on top of tuition fees, their spending has become a major factor in supporting local economies.
London alone gains £4.6 billion - with Sheffield the biggest beneficiary in proportion to its economy.
The figures support calls to remove students from immigration targets.
There are about 230,000 students arriving each year for university courses in the UK - most of them postgraduates, with China the most common country of origin.