Education & Family

More UK students 'go abroad for part of degrees'

Studying outside Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption A year at an overseas university is an increasingly popular option, says the British Council

UK students are increasingly opting to study abroad as part of their degrees, suggest British Council figures.

In particular, the numbers studying overseas through the European Union's Erasmus programme more than doubled in seven years, says the Council.

And more than a third of almost 3,000 UK students surveyed said they were interested in studying abroad.

Rebecca Hughes, British Council director of education, said barriers were "gradually diminishing".

'Going global'

The British Council, which promotes UK culture and education overseas, says interest among UK students in working and studying abroad is growing.

Last year, 15,566 UK students took part in the European Union's Erasmus programme, spending up to a year in another European country as part of their degrees.

This was 115% up on the number who took part when the programme began in the UK in 2007 and a rise of 6.8% on the year before.

More than 7,000 students also went to work or study in China last year on British Council Generation UK China scholarships, up from 6,000 the year before.

And more than 2,500 have applied for 500 places on the Generation UK India programme, launched this year.

The figures are published ahead of the British Council's Going Global international higher education conference in London next week.

Of 2,856 UK students interviewed for the report, 34% said they were interested in overseas study.

Almost half (48%) of these said they were most attracted by the chance to travel and explore different cultures, 30% said they hoped ultimately to work for an international company and live overseas, while 15% wanted to access the best universities for their subject.

Only 7% said they wanted to return home as soon as possible once their period of overseas study was finished.

Of those who had already studied abroad, 40% defined the main advantage as a boost to their career chances, while 60% said it had given them experience of another culture and the chance to travel.

The most popular option was to study abroad for a year as an undergraduate.

The United States was the most desired destination but 42% preferred non-English-speaking countries.

One of the biggest deterrents was a perceived lack of language skills, the study suggests, along with cost. Help with foreign language training and funding were popular suggested solutions.

"This latest evidence confirms that a growing number of the UK's students are recognising the huge value to be gained from international experience," said Prof Hughes.

"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."

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