Thursday 28 May 2015


  • New survey shows half (50%) of UK students who are considering studying overseas would like to do so at undergraduate level
  • Latest (2013/14) Erasmus statistics show 15,566 UK students spent up to a year through the programme studying or working in another European country, up 6.8% year on year. Across the lifetime of the programme (2007-2013) there was growth in UK participation of 115 per cent.
  • In 2013/14 UK universities reported that 28,640 students (22,100 of whom were UK domiciled) went abroad, up from 18,105 the previous year.

Over a third of UK students are interested in studying abroad, new British Council research has found.

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 per cent a year ago.

The ‘Broadening Horizons 2015’ research based on a survey of almost 3000 UK students found overall, 34 per cent of all respondents to the survey said they were interested in some form of overseas study.

The research will be launched at the British Council’s annual Going Global conference for leaders of international education, on June 2nd in London.

At the conference, the British Council and the UK Higher Education International Unit will provide a comprehensive view of students’ own perspectives on the impact of outward mobility as part of a UK higher education, identify the barriers and suggest solutions to help policy makers and institutions identify positive messages of the benefits of mobility. The British Council, together with the UK Higher Education International Unit, is due to publish later this summer an in-depth analysis of what motivates students to go abroad and what universities can do to support more British students to go overseas, which will complement the findings of Broadening Horizons.

The Broadening Horizons research reveals that of the UK students who indicated an interest in overseas study, 69 per cent had not yet undertaken an overseas study experience. Although English speaking countries were still most appealing to British students, 42 per cent were interested in studying in non-Anglophone countries. Of the students who were interested in overseas study, 47 per cent stated they would want to study abroad for a one year period, followed by those who would select a full degree (26%) and then one term (14%).

49 per cent 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, 57 per cent stated it had.

Students who are interested in studying abroad in the future would most like to do so in Creative arts and design (14% of respondents selected this subject), Social studies (11%), Business and administrative studies (10%), Languages (including English) (9%) and the Biological sciences (8%).

When students who expressed interest in overseas study were asked what attitudinal statements they most identified with, the highest percentage stated they wanted to have fun traveling and exploring different cultures (48%), while almost one third said they wanted to work for an international company and live overseas (30%) and 15 per cent stated they wanted to go to the best university for the best education. Just seven per cent stated they would like to return home quickly after a study abroad experience.

Although the UK is established as the most popular destination for new international students, and hosted a total of 493,570 international students in 2013/14, in 2013/14 UK universities reported that just 28,640 students (22,100 of whom were UK domiciled) went abroad, although this is up from 18,105 the previous academic year. According to a 2013 CBI report, 55 per cent of UK employers were unhappy with UK graduates’ foreign language abilities and 47 per cent were disappointed in graduates’ cultural awareness.

Professor Rebecca Hughes, British Council Director of Education, said “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. 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”

Zainab Malik, Research Director of the British Council’s Education Intelligence service, and author of the Broadening Horizons research, said: “Our research shows the top perceived barriers to study abroad for UK students were costs and a lack of language skills. However, students we had surveyed who had already studied overseas said that, in retrospect, those concerns were not as substantial as they initially had thought. Their experience, coupled with accessible information, indicates that these barriers might be mitigated or even overcome.”

Vivienne Stern, Director of the UK HE International Unit said “We know the UK higher education sector is committed to increasing the numbers of UK students gaining international experience and we know that outward mobility is on the rise, however there is still more to be done. If we want to encourage our students to spend time abroad whilst at university we need to better understand their motivations and what dissuades many others from taking advantage of opportunities. The Broadening Horizons research and our own research with the British Council will support the UK Strategy for Outward Mobility and will provide universities with the intelligence they need to better understand students’ motivations and the barriers they face to going overseas which in turn will inform institutions’ future approaches to outward mobility.”

The most recent statistics from the European Union’s Erasmus programme, managed in the UK by the British Council, published for the first time at Going Global, revealed that in 2013/14, the final year of the Erasmus programme as a part of the Lifelong Learning programme, 15,566 UK students spent up to a year in another European country – 10,316 on a study placement, 5,250 on a work placement. This is a 6.8% growth year on year.

In 2013 the British Council launched its Generation UK China campaign, supported by the UK Government, which aims to boost the number of UK students studying and undertaking work experience in China. The number of UK students going to China for a study or work experience has grown from 6,491, in 2013, to 7,365, in 2014.

In 2014 the British Council launched its Generation UK India campaign, enabling UK students to gain work experience in India, and has received over 2500 applications for the initial 500 places. Students will begin travelling to India in the summer of 2015.

These latest reports to be launched at Going Global complement other recent research including the International Unit’s Gone International:mobile students and their outcomes’ report which outlines the employment and academic attainment outcomes of mobile students and compares these to non-mobile peers. These pieces of research together support the UK Strategy for Outward Mobility and will help inform the UK higher education sector and governments’ approaches to increasing outward student mobility.




Notes to Editor

For more information please contact Tim Sowula, Senior Press Officer, British Council or 07771 718 135 / 0207 389 4871

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