Financial concerns, a reluctance to leave friends and family in the UK and uncertainty about foreign language skills have dampened UK student interest in studying abroad, according to new survey findings published today by the British Council.
‘Broadening Horizons: Addressing the needs of a new generation’ surveyed 1,033 UK-domiciled students about their overseas study aspirations. Only 18 per cent of surveyed UK undergraduates said they were interested in some form of overseas study, down from 34 per cent in 2015.
According to the survey, students said they would have more interest under certain circumstances: seventy per cent of respondents who did not want to study abroad said they would consider it with funding assistance. Over half stated they would be motivated by evidence that study abroad would enhance their job prospects.
“Today’s students face a quickly transforming world and have to contend with instability on a number of fronts,” said Zainab Malik, Research Director for Education Intelligence, the British Council’s global higher education research service. “The UK’s place in an unpredictable global environment remains undefined, the pound sterling remains weak and political and economic shifts have left young people feeling lost and uncertain about their future.”
Ms Malik, the report’s author, added: “As a result, messaging regarding the benefits of study abroad, particularly those related to employability, must take into account this unique set of circumstances in order to effectively incentivise students to take a risk and go overseas.”
Of the total sample, 727 (70%) indicated that they were not considering overseas study, whilst 119 (12%) stated they were unsure. The top academic barrier to studying abroad was that the UK offers the highest quality education globally (36%).
Gaps in the delivery of information about study abroad persist. Students perceived a lack of evidence that international experience enhances job prospects. Difficulties accessing timely and relevant information about study abroad from institutions also remained a barrier. Some students indicated their universities had not explained the benefits or options to them in detail, or even at all.
The report recommends strong, institutional-wide messaging alongside innovative solutions. Partnerships, new funding models and technology should be used to encourage UK students to gain international experience. Delivering the messaging early in the undergraduate career is key.
Mounting evidence linking mobility with better jobs and salaries is available in the UK. These studies must be highlighted for students to appreciate the benefits of the experience despite the costs.
The report finds the US is still the number one destination of choice for UK students in 2017, but the percentage of students that selected this option fell to 22 per cent from 40 per cent in 2015. The top desired study destinations were Anglophone or European countries plus Japan and China.