More UK students want to study abroad, many as undergraduates

by Ray Clancy on June 3, 2015

Half of UK students who are considering studying overseas would like to do so at the undergraduate level, with more interested in overseas education in general, new research shows.

Some 15,566 UK students spent up to a year with the 2013/2014 Erasmus programme, up 6.8% year-on-year and since it was launched in 2007 it has seen participation rates rise by 115%.

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Research from the British Council shows that 28,640 UK students went abroad last year

The research from the British Council also shows that UK universities reported that 28,640 students went abroad, up from 18,105 the previous year. Overall, a third of UK students are interested in studying abroad.

Studying at undergraduate level overseas has become particularly popular, with half of those considering a university course in another country wishing to study at that level compared with 35% a year ago.

The research also found that although English-speaking countries were still most appealing to British students, 42% were interested in studying in non-Anglophone countries. Of the students who were interested in overseas study, 47% stated they would want to study abroad for a one year period, 26% would select a full degree and 14% one term.

Some 49% of students who were interested in overseas study said that the cost of UK university tuition played a role in their interest. When the same question was asked in 2014, it was 57%.

The most popular subject to study abroad was creative arts and design cited by 14% of respondents, followed by 11% selecting social studies, 10% business studies, 9% languages and 8% biological sciences.

Some 48% wanted to have fun travelling and exploring different cultures while studying abroad, 30% wanted to work for an international company and live overseas and 15% wanted to go to the best university for the best education. Just 7% stated they would like to return home quickly after a study abroad experience.

‘This latest evidence confirms that a growing number of the UK’s students are recognising the huge value to be gained from international experience. Our universities play an important role in supporting those ambitions. The UK needs graduates who have the skills and confidence to compete globally, and can compete against foreign talent that may speak more languages, and have wider international experience,’ said Professor Rebecca Hughes, British Council director of education,

‘The barriers, real and perceived, to British students going abroad are gradually diminishing, and the UK’s Strategy for Outward Mobility is a very positive step in the right direction. The government, sector and industry all need to unite behind a move like this this to ensure that our next generation has the best possible opportunities to succeed in the future,’ she added.

Zainab Malik, research director of the British Council’s Education Intelligence service, pointed out that although the research shows the top perceived barriers to study abroad for UK students were costs and a lack of language skills, students who had already studied overseas said that, in retrospect, those concerns were not as substantial as they initially had thought.

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