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16% drop in study abroad interest – British Council

A British Council survey of UK domiciled students has revealed a 16% fall in the interest in studying abroad, in any form, over the past two years.

Only 18% of UK students are interested in international education, according to the Britich Council Photo: Pexels

This is despite 68% of young Britons saying that "international experience" is crucial

Only 18% of UK undergraduates expressed an interest in any form of mobile study. That’s down from 34% in 2015.

Financial concerns, a reluctance to live far from friends and family, and worries over a lack of foreign language skills top the list of reasons behind the drop, according to the British Council.

“Political and economic shifts have left young people feeling lost and uncertain about their future”

However, the details of the survey reveal that financial concerns may be the most prescient of the reasons stated. Nearly three-quarters of the students who said they were not interested in studying overseas said they would change their point of view if funding assistance was available for mobile study.

These new figures seem to run contrary to an earlier British Council survey, which suggested that 68% of young Britons believe that “international experience and a global outlook” are crucial to achieving future goals. The Next Generation research showed real concern that the UK’s exit from the European Union would harm citizens’ future prospects. 

Author of Broadening Horizons: Addressing the needs of a new generation, Zainab Malik, the research director at the British Council’s HE research service, said the turbulent political and economic situation in the UK (and globally) has had a negative effect on UK students, and led to a loss of confidence.

“Delivering the message successfully to undergraduate students will be key”

“The UK’s place in an unpredictable global environment remains undefined, the pound sterling remains weak and political and economic shifts have left young people feeling lost and uncertain about their future,” she said.

Messaging around the strengths of mobile study, Malik said, must catch up with this new reality, “to effectively incentivise students to take a risk and go overseas”.

The report goes on to suggest that a lack of properly directed information about the benefits that studying abroad can bring, such as enhanced job prospects, may be one cause behind the drop.

The study also gives recommendations to the British international education sector, arguing that delivering the message successfully to undergraduate students will be key to securing higher rates of uptake.

It also posits that partnerships and technology should be used to encourage students to understand the worth of an international period of study.

The study also points out that for those UK students who do partake in study abroad programs, the US remains the destination of choice. However, the percentage of UK students studying in the US has also fallen dramatically, from 40% in 2015 to 22% in these latest figures. Japan and China are also popular choices, outside of the Anglophone and European nations which dominate UK students’ destinations.

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2 Responses to 16% drop in study abroad interest – British Council

  1. The main problem here is that UK universities, by and large, pay lip-service at best to the whole notion of study abroad and exchanges. International offices are solely preoccupied with income generation activities (fee-paying international students). Academics involved in exchange activity get no real reflection in pay or time for their efforts. And the overall majority of students have more pressing needs than study abroad.
    A bit hypocritical of both universities and students especially when on the one hand they were pro-remaim in the Brexit referendum. The reality is, however, thus so.

  2. This has always been a problem and one of the main problems is a lack of communication. When I was in university (2002 to 2005), I was never really informed of study abroad programmes. I was a working class student and those with more educated parents got the best opportunities because they did not have to go and check things for themselves. Things like the ERASMUS programme sound great now, but at the time I had no idea and things such as optional field courses often cost 900 pounds or more — something my parents were never going to pay for.

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