Wednesday 06 March 2013

The vast majority of UK students are still not considering studying overseas, and over three quarters of them feel there is not enough information to make an informed decision, according to new research by the British Council.

Over half of the 20 per cent of UK students who are considering studying abroad also feel there is not enough information or they have had to work very hard to find it. The most recent figures show that only 33,000 UK students experience some or all of their study overseas, less than two per cent of the total UK student higher education population. The report, ‘Broadening Horizons – perceived barriers to UK and US students studying overseas’, surveyed over 10,000 students in the UK and US to try and understand what was behind the decision-making of the vast majority of students who chose to stay at home.

The difficulty in accessing information has meant that the most significant perceived barriers to studying abroad for UK students are lack of language skills and concerns about the cost. However, more than 80 per cent of those considering study abroad say they feel confident using a foreign language, and of the top ten most popular countries, seven are non-English speaking.

Only a quarter of UK students say the introduction of higher tuition fees in the UK has influenced their decision whether or not to study abroad.

The clear motivation for UK students to consider studying abroad is employment opportunities; over three quarters of all respondents think they will need more than a degree to stand out in the employment market.

90 per cent of those considering studying abroad and 60 per cent who are not think an overseas study experience would give them the edge in the jobs market. 44 per cent of UK students considering studying overseas and nearly a fifth of those not considering say they want to work for an international company and live overseas.

The report was launched at ‘Going Global’ the British Council’s annual conference for the world’s international education leaders, held this year in Dubai. Speaking at the launch, Dr Jo Beall, the British Council’s director of Education and Society revealed plans for a new British Council website for young people in the UK that will bring together detailed information on education opportunities around the world, with advice on everything from funding to visas and healthcare. The site will also offer guidance for parents to help them understand the options and what the benefits and risks might be.

Dr Beall said: 'This research goes a long way in helping us understand what is really holding young people in the UK back from the opportunities that we know are available, will make them more employable (as young people also believe) and our country more globally competitive in the long term. It’s vital for young people now to gain intercultural skills. Employers have made it clear that they greatly value people with overseas experience. Young people in the UK shouldn’t be deprived by a lack of information, so I hope that the British Council’s new resource will go a long way towards supporting their decision-making and letting them know what great opportunities are out there for them to succeed.'

About the British Council

The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. We are a Royal Charter charity, established as the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations.

We work in more than 100 countries, and our 7000 staff – including 2000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year through English, arts, education and society programmes.

We earn over 75% of our annual turnover of £739 million from services which customers pay for, education and development contracts we bid for and from partnerships. A UK Government grant provides the remaining 25%. We match every £1 of core public funding with over £3 earned in pursuit of our charitable purpose.

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