UK Universities Top Destination for Nobel winners

Tuesday 06 October 2015

The UK is the top destination for Nobel Prize winners who have studied abroad, a new study by the British Council has found.

As the Nobel Institute announces its 2015 winners this week, the British Council analysis of past winners reveals that 38% of Nobel Laureates [winners] who have studied at universities abroad, studied in the UK – more than any other country.

Since the first prize was awarded in 1901, 860 individuals have received the award. Of the winners, 131 had studied at an overseas university for some or all of their higher education. Fifty out of those 131 – [38% of international students] had studied in the UK, compared to 37 [28%] who had studied in the USA, and 23 [18%] who had studied in Germany.

Dr Jo Beall, British Council Director of Education and Society, said “The British Council celebrates UK alumni, and without question, Nobel Laureates have changed the world. Their journeys would have begun with their studies at university, so it’s wonderful to discover that for Nobel Laureates who went abroad to pursue their education, more studied in the UK than anywhere else. Our global reputation for education excellence has long attracted the most ambitious people from across the world. Today there are almost five hundred thousand international students studying at UK universities and it’s thrilling to imagine what they will go to achieve and which of them could be future Nobel Laureates; with their experience here as a springboard to that.”

In 2013-14 there were 493,570 international students studying in UK universities, and the 2015 British Council Student Insight Survey found that the UK’s quality of education, having an internationally recognised qualification, career prospects and the university reputation were the four chief factors currently attracting students here.

The Swedish Nobel Institute began awarding prizes in 1901 recognising outstanding contributions in the fields of Physics, Chemistry, Medicine or Physiology, Literature and Peace. In 1968 the Nobel memorial prize in economic sciences was established by Sveriges Riksbank, the central bank of Sweden, for contributions to the field of Economics. 

The most recent Nobel Prize winner who had studied in the UK as an overseas student is Randy Schekman, an American cell biologist who won the 2013 prize for Physiology or Medicine. While an undergraduate, Schekman spent his third year studying at the University of Edinburgh.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, Prof. Sir Timothy O'Shea, said “I am confident that you will find many of the next generation of Nobel Laureates studying in the UK today. The continued pursuit of excellence in the research we undertake here at the University of Edinburgh, and at other top universities across the country, will ensure that future Nobel Laureates are attracted. International students play a huge part in making the vibrant, innovative and diverse community at The University of Edinburgh. This research by the British Council affirms the transformative effect that learning in other countries and cultures has - and it is our ambition to offer all our students an international learning experience”.

The UK university that has hosted the most international students who went on to win Nobel Prizes is the University of Cambridge (18 Laureates), followed by the University of Oxford (11), and the London School of Economics (five).

The most common Nobel prize for UK alumni was Medicine or Physiology, with 17 winners. Eight UK alumni won  prizes for Physics, eight for Chemistry, seven for Economics, five for Literature and five for Peace.

There have also been 91 British winners of the prize, since 1901. The University of Cambridge again dominates, having taught 48 British students who went on to win Nobel Prizes, followed by the University of Oxford with 17, and the University of Manchester, who taught seven.

The British Council celebrates the success of outstanding alumni who have studied at UK universities in the last ten years, through the Education UK Alumni Awards. The awards showcase the impact and value of a UK higher education, and honour the outstanding achievements made by business professionals, entrepreneurs and community leaders. Inaugurated in 2015 in China, India and the USA, applications for the 2016 awards are now open to alumni in ten countries, celebrating the success of alumni on every continent.

 

Notes to Editor

493,570 international students in the UK in 2013-14 includes visiting and exchange students, and students ‘writing up’ studies

For a copy of the British Council’s spread sheet with full statistics on the Nobel Laureates, please contact Tim Sowula tim.sowula@britishcouncil.org

The British Council undertook desk research in September 2015 of all Nobel Laureates (excluding organisations), recording where they studied as an undergraduate or postgraduate.

A winner was classified as an international student if they were found to have studied for all or part of their degree in a country other than their birth.

Where a student may have studied in two countries other than their birth, we recorded both locations – e.g. if a Swiss Laureate studied in the USA and Germany, we would have counted Germany as a host, and the USA as a hosting. This has occurred on a few occasions but not enough to affect the overall percentages or conclusions from the analysis.

UK Universities that have hosted international students who have gone on to win a Nobel prize:

(Fifty individuals but five studied in two different institutions, so 55 counts of ‘hosting an international student’)

UK university

Number of Nobel Laureates (international students)

University of Cambridge

18

University of Oxford

11

London School of Economics

5

University College London

4

University of Edinburgh

3

King's College London

2

University of Essex

2

University of Liverpool

2

Univesity of London

2

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

1

University of Bristol

1

University of Glasgow

1

University of Leeds

1

University of Manchester

1

University of Greenwich

1

 

Top ten UK universities that have hosted British students who have gone on to win a Nobel prize:

 

UK university (alma mater)

Number of Nobel Laureates (British)

University of Cambridge

48

University of Oxford

17

University of Manchester

7

University of Birmingham

4

= University College London;

3

= University of Glasgow

3

= Imperial College London

2

= Kings College London

2

= University of Edinburgh

2

= University of Liverpool

2

= University of Sheffield

2

Finding out the education of all Nobel Laureates is not always an easy task. So, if you spot any errors, please email tim.sowula@britishcouncil.org

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.

We work in more than 100 countries and our 8,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programmes.

We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publicly-funded grant provides 20 per cent of our turnover which last year was £864 million. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, such as English classes and taking UK examinations, and also through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally.

 

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