More UK students taking part of degree in Europe

Students outside The number of UK students on the EU's Erasmus scheme has more than doubled in six years

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Record numbers of UK university students are opting to spend a year studying or working abroad, says the British Council.

More than 14,500 UK students took part in the European Union's Erasmus student exchange scheme in 2012-13, the highest since it was launched in 1987.

But the UK lags behind France, Germany and Spain, where almost three times as many students are on the scheme.

The British Council says foreign study has been shown to boost job prospects.

Ruth Sinclair-Jones, of the British Council, described the scheme as "an ideal way to learn another language and culture".

Vital skills

"As the number of specialist foreign language courses decline in the UK, Erasmus is becoming even more essential.

"The international experience offered through Erasmus has been shown to make a real difference in terms of people's employability."

The British Council has managed Erasmus in the UK for the past six years.

Since then, the number of UK students on the scheme has more than doubled, according to British Council data.

The latest UK participation figures show a rise of 7% on the previous year.

In all, more than 2.5 million students across Europe have taken part in the scheme.

Despite the recent rise, the UK is still well behind other major European countries - the latest figures show 39,000 Spanish students took part in the scheme in 2011-12, along with 33,300 from Germany and 33,200 from France.

Last year the University of Nottingham was the UK institution to send the largest number of students on to Erasmus exchanges, with 522 participants.

The scheme is also popular among students at other members of the Russell Group of research based universities.

Last year Leeds sent 459 students, Sheffield 447, Manchester 438 and Bristol 422.

Scots success

Although the numbers are rising across the UK, there has been particular success in Scotland, with 1,877 students taking part last year.

Some 13% of Erasmus participants last year came from Scottish institutions, which represent just 8.5% of the UK student population.

The University of Edinburgh was the most enthusiastic Erasmus participant in Scotland, with 356 students on the scheme.

Vincenzo Raima, director of Nottingham's international office, said the university had set a target for 25% of its undergraduates to be taking part in some form of international scheme or experience by 2015-15.

"All the evidence out there tells us that students who undertake international activities gain the additional skills employers are looking for," said Mr Raima.

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