Monday 27 January 2014


US Undergraduates Increasingly Choosing the UK for their Studies

New HESA data shows a 28 per cent increase in Americans pursuing their full undergraduate degrees at British universities over the past four years; and UCAS data reveals an eight per cent increase in US applicants for courses starting 2014-15.

· Record 4,346 Americans students pursuing full undergraduate degrees at British universities in 2012-13, representing a four per cent increase over the previous year

· Over the past four years, there has been a 28 per cent rise at the undergraduate level, 13 per cent increase overall

· UCAS is reporting a eight per cent increase in US applicants

New data released by the UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show an increased number of American students studying for full first degrees in the UK. A record 4,346 US students studied at British universities at the undergraduate level in 2012-13, marking an approximate four per cent increase over the previous year.

Undergraduate study has become increasingly popular amongst US students, as the number of Americans pursuing their first degree in the UK has risen by about 28% since 2008-09. Additionally, UCAS is reporting an eight per cent rise in US applicants for courses starting in 2014-15, to a total of 2,933 applicants submitting almost 10,500 applications to UK universities. The number of postgraduate students has levelled off after years of dramatic growth.

The increase of students of all levels of study, from across the Atlantic has especially benefited English and Scottish institutions. They have seen a noticeable increase of US students since 2008-09, with attendance rising 14 per cent and 17 per cent respectively. The top five institutions hosting US students include St Andrews, Oxford, Edinburgh, University College London and University of Westminster.

What’s fuelling this trend? UK universities have stepped up their recruitment of American students in recent years. Eight institutions are now members of the Common Application, a US university application system, making it even easier for Americans to submit applications for undergraduate study. Three of these universities are Scottish, including St Andrews which hosted the most number of Americans in 2012-13. In addition, some UK universities have opened recruitment offices in the States or increased their recruitment activities.

International students in the UK collectively paid an estimated £10.2bn in tuition fees and living expenses in 2011-12 (BIS). US students constitute approximately five per cent of the international student body (non-EU students) in the UK – bringing their knowledge and experiences to UK institutions and enriching the profile of UK campuses.

Penny Egan CBE, Executive Director, US-UK Fulbright Commission, said “Despite the fact that the UK has seen its first decline in non-EU students in 20 years, it’s not all doom and gloom. This newly released data shows that the world-class education available in the UK is still a huge draw to international students, in particular Americans.”

What attracts US students to the UK? Key factors are the strong reputation of the British higher education system, the shorter length of the degrees and increased competitiveness on the job market. Additionally, unlike their British peers, American students are able to use their US government loans to complete full degrees abroad, when scholarships are not available.

Paul Smith, Director of the British Council in USA, said “It’s great to see more American students choosing to study in the UK every year. The challenges of the 21st century are global in nature and scope. US students choosing a British undergraduate degree have the benefit not only of an excellent education but also an international experience that will serve as a valuable asset to their future careers. The more young people who take the opportunity to study overseas, the more future leaders we will have who can view the world with a responsible international perspective”

Miko Brown, American Undergraduate Student at University of St Andrews, said: “I thought a UK university would be the best fit for me, since I would be able to focus from the beginning on the subjects I am passionate about. In addition, St Andrews' unique international community appealed to me because I desired to engage with a variety of perspectives in the classroom. Overall, my St Andrews experience has been incredible and I will cherish my memories of St Andrews forever.”

Notes to Editor


Jamie Dunn

Communication Officer and Educational Advisor

US-UK Fulbright Commission

+44 (0) 207 498 4020 or +44 (0) 759 691 0115

Tim Sowula

Senior Press Officer

British Council

+44 (0) 207 389 4871 or +44 (0) 777 171 8135


Data is from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) Student Record 2008-09 to 2012-13. 

  • In total, 16,233 US students pursued university study in the UK in 2012-13. This figure represents a 13.2% rise over the past 4 years.
  • According to HESA data, the US is also the fourth leading country of origin for international students (from non-EU countries) seeking full degrees at UK universities in 2012-13.
  • By level of study, 9,367 (58%) American students pursued postgraduate study in the UK, alongside 6,866 (42%) Americans at the undergraduate level.
  • The UK is the top destination for US students pursuing full degrees abroad (IIE Project Atlas, 2012).
  • The UK is the top destination for short-term exchange as well, with over 34,600 Americans completing a summer, semester or year programme at British universities in 2011-12 (IIE Open Doors Report, 2013).
  • The top 10 British universities hosting American students includes University of St Andrews, University of Oxford, University of Edinburgh, University of College London and University of Westminster, London School of Economics and Political Science, University of Cambridge, King’s College London, University of Glasgow, and University of the Arts, London. 

Level of study




Percentage change 2008-09 to 2012-13

Percentage change 2011-12 to 2012-13

First degree






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:

About the US-UK Fulbright Commission:

The US-UK Fulbright Commission ( fosters cultural understanding between the US and UK. This it achieves through a wide range of postgraduate and postdoctoral scholarships for US and UK citizens and through its advisory service. The global Fulbright awards programme is one of the world’s most prestigious, operating in over 150 countries and has over 300,000 alumni. Fulbright is funded by the US and UK governments and a range of partners including leading US and UK universities, professional bodies and leading charities.

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.