Thursday 23 February 2012

New HESA data shows a record 15,555 Americans pursuing full degrees at British universities in 2010-11. UCAS data reveals a 10% increase in US applicants for courses starting 2012-13.

For taught postgraduate courses, key factors are lower cost of tuition, shorter degrees, increased competitiveness in the job market, the portability of US loans and the reputation of the British higher education system.

New data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show an increased number of American students studying for full degrees in the UK. A record 15,555 US students studied at British universities in 2010-11, marking a 3.3% rise over the previous year. Since 2008-9, the number of post-graduate US students at institutions in the UK has risen by 15.2%.

International students collectively added £9.6bn to the UK economy in 2008-9 (BIS). US students constitute around 7% of the international student body in the UK – bringing their knowledge and experiences to UK institutions and enriching the profile of our campuses.

Penny Egan, Executive Director, US-UK Fulbright Commission, said “Our press headlines are focussed on the numbers of British students heading out to the US, but in fact British universities, which consistently feature alongside US universities at the top of the world league tables, are attracting American students in ever increasing numbers. This brings in significant overseas earnings, creates potential research collaborators and lifelong ambassadors for our higher education system. This is good news, for both countries”.

What attracts US students to the UK? For taught postgraduate courses, key factors are lower cost of attendance, shorter degrees, increased competitiveness in the job market, the portability of US loans and the reputation of the British higher education system.

Most US universities offer two-year Master’s programmes, relative to the majority of British programmes which last just one year. Further fuelling the interest in taught Master’s degrees is the limited availability for funding at home. While American universities are known for their postgraduate study scholarships, funding is more readily available for doctoral study and in research-intensive fields such as the sciences and engineering relative to the arts and humanities. Additionally, unlike their British peers, American students are able to use their US government loans to complete full degrees abroad and are able to choose from a number of private lenders to top-up these funds if needed.

"Student mobility between the US and UK strengthens the special relationship between our two countries", said Richard Everitt, Deputy Director of the British Council in the USA. "What's more, a British degree is a valuable asset in the US job market. Three-quarters of American employers consider UK degrees to be the same as or better than US degrees, according to new research carried out by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of the British Council."

Speaking from personal experience, Jordan Covvey, a Fulbright-Strathclyde Postgraduate Awardee said: “I chose to study in the UK because of the world-class institutions, and the long-standing reputation of research excellence in biomedical sciences. I expect the combination of strong academics and rich historical and cultural opportunities (from ceilidhs to castles) that I’ve experienced this year in the UK as a Fulbright scholar will contribute greatly to my career as a practicing clinician, academic and eventual leader in the profession of pharmacy.”

For more information, contact:

Lauren Welch
Director, Advising & Marketing
US-UK Fulbright Commission
+44 (0) 207 498 4019 or +44 (0) 753 371 4960

Tim Sowula
Senior Press Officer, British Council
+442073894871 or +44 7771 718 135


Notes to Editor

Data is from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) Student Record 2008/09 - 2010/11.

About the US-UK Fulbright Commission
The US-UK Fulbright Commission was created by treaty on 22 September 1948. The Fulbright Programme aims to foster mutual cultural understanding through educational exchange between both countries. This it achieves through a wide range of postgraduate and postdoctoral scholarships for US and UK citizens and through its Advisory Service.

Fulbright and the British Council are happy to assist with enquiries related to this press release and other articles on US-UK exchange, by providing facts and figures, commenting on trends, providing case studies and arranging interviews with staff or students.

About the British Council
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide. We work in over 100 countries in the arts, education and English and in 2010/11 we engaged face to face with 30 million people and reached 578 million. We have 6,800 staff worldwide. Our total turnover in 2010/11 was £693 million, of which our grant-in-aid from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was £190 million. The remainder was generated through trading activities such as English language teaching. For every £1 of taxpayer money invested we earn £2.65 in additional income. For more information, please visit:

HESA Figures

  • In total, 15,555 US students pursued university study in the UK in 2010-11. This figure represents a 3.3% increase from the previous year.
  • According to HESA data, the US is also the fourth leading country of origin for international students seeking full degrees at UK universities in 2010-11.
  • By level of study, 9,470 (60%) American students pursued full postgraduate degrees in the UK, alongside 6085 (40%) Americans at the undergraduate level.
  • The UK is the top destination for short-term exchange, with over 31,000 Americans completing a summer, semester or year programme at British universities (IIE Open Doors Report, 2010).
  • The top 10 British universities hosting American students includes: the University of St. Andrews, University of Oxford, University of Edinburgh, University College London, London School of Economics and Political Science, University of Cambridge, University of Westminster, King’s College London, University of Glasgow and the University of the Arts, London.