Choosing to study abroad can prove to employers that you're flexible and culturally mobile. Many employers also think studying abroad gives you great maturity and a breadth of experience that makes you stand out from other candidates.
In 2014/15, around 24,000 UK students spent time studying or working abroad. Over 96% of these were undergraduate students, and the rest were postgraduates.
- 18,200 were studying.
- Over 5,800 were working.
- 790 were volunteering.
The Erasmus+ exchange programme arranged nearly half of the overseas study visits, and 42% were facilitated through UK university links.
The most popular periods for study placements were:
- one week – 1,955
- 30 weeks – 1,335
- two weeks – 880
- 52 weeks – 860
- eight weeks – 835
- 18 weeks – 835
The top ten subject areas for overseas study in 2014/15 were:
- languages, linguistics, and literature
- business and administrative studies
- medicine and dentistry
- social studies
- creative arts and design
- biological sciences
- physical sciences
- historical and philosophical studies
- subjects allied to medicine
Top ten destinations were:
- France – 3,560
- United States – 3,045
- Spain – 2,920
- Germany – 1,705
- Australia – 1,385
- Canada – 1,025
- Italy – 885
- China – 700
- Netherlands – 690
- Japan – 375
Top five reasons to study abroad
- It can be cheaper – With the rise in tuition fees in 2012, and the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) for courses starting from September 2017, higher education in the UK isn’t necessarily the most cost-effective option. A recent study conducted by HSBC found that Germany was the least expensive place to study at less than half the annual cost of a degree in the UK, with France coming a close second.
- Stand out from the crowd – Graduate employment is tough, with thousands of graduates with similar qualifications seeking jobs every year. Make yourself stand out from the crowd by studying abroad – it’ll give you more life experience, cultural awareness, and perhaps a different perspective on life to your fellow graduates.
- Study at a top ranking course provider – According to the QS World University Rankings, six of the top ten universities on the planet are abroad, with five of those being in America. Although four of the top ten are UK-based course providers, why not try something a little different and experience the same high level of tuition but with completely different surroundings?
- Get international-savvy – In our global economy, an awareness of the wider world outside your home town (and home country) can go a long way. Just think of all those international businesses looking for clued-up employees, with an understanding of different cultures and how the world works.
- Whet your appetite for adventure – Want to see the world but can’t justify an extended holiday? Combine the two and study abroad in a location you can explore as extensively as you like!
Things to consider
Choosing to go to an overseas university for any duration of your undergraduate studies will mean you get to fully immerse yourself in a completely new culture. You’ll experience a different way of learning, and different ways of life, giving you new cultural experiences, and opportunities to develop and grow as a person. Whichever option you’re looking to pursue, there are some important things you need to consider.
- What's right for you?
It’s really important to focus on choosing the right subject and course for you – don’t focus on just getting the overseas experience.
Carefully consider the costs associated with living and studying – both in the UK and abroad. You’ll need to think about course fees too.
- Loans and funding
Students on exchange programmes, where they are enrolled on a course at a UK university, remain eligible for student loans in the UK. Some grants may also be available, for example, Erasmus exchange students can receive a grant to cover additional living costs. You also don’t have to pay tuition fees to the international university.
UK student loans are not available for those studying their entire degree course overseas. However, some EU countries do have schemes providing grants and loans. Tuition fees for UK students studying abroad vary widely so check this out early on.
In countries outside the EU, students will not have access to financial aid, and usually have to pay higher fees than home students. These fees may also need to be paid upfront.Scholarships are available to support overseas study, but they’re very competitive.
You may need to apply for a student visa, as well as applying to the university to study overseas. These can take time – sometimes several months – so it’s important to allow as much time as possible.
- Part-time work
Many students find part-time work during their studies. UK residents studying outside of the UK aren’t always eligible to work overseas. Make sure you check to see if there are any restrictions on the type of work and hours of work you can do.
- How to apply
Many other countries do not use an application service like UCAS, so it’s important you understand course entry requirements, the university’s application process, and their deadline dates. Look at these very carefully – they can differ considerably, especially when comparing course providers in a variety of countries.
Pros and cons of studying abroad
When making choices about your studies, it’s important to weigh up both the pros and cons before making any decisions. Here are some pros and cons for international study to get you started, but it’s worth creating your own table and listing the pros and cons for each course, country, and study abroad option you’re considering.
|Many international universities do not charge exchange students tuition fees.||UK residents who apply directly to non-UK universities are not eligible for UK student loans.|
|It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in a different culture.||International scholarship programmes are especially competitive.|
|You can develop transferable skills and experience, which can enhance your CV and career prospects.||You may not be able to get part-time work to support your overseas studies, due to visa restrictions.|
|Studies during a term or one year exchange can count towards your final UK degree.||Tuition fees are often higher for international students studying abroad.|
|Many UK universities are now in partnership with universities all over the world and offer exchange programmes.||Not all universities offer accommodation to UK students studying abroad – make sure you check this out early.|
|You can build your foreign language skills and fluency.||Studying your subject in a foreign language can be challenging – make sure the overseas course or exchange opportunity you’re considering is taught in your preferred language.|
- there are support networks available at most international universities
- many exchange programmes will offer you support both in-country and pre/post-study
- exchange rates can have both a positive and negative effect on your cost of living, food and drink, and tuition fees (if you're required to pay in the currency of the country you're applying to study in)
IE University, Spain
IE University is an institution that thrives on change. With an innovative vision, entrepreneurial spirit, and a focus on humanities and academic rigour, IE University is committed to educating professionals and experts who will make a difference in society.
All of our undergraduate programs are taught in English, students can learn some Spanish as part of their degree, spend up to two semesters abroad at one of our partner universities around the world and even gain work experience through our global internships.
IE University offers a unique learning environment, which fosters the exchange of ideas and facilitates a global vision.
- With 130 nationalities represented between our two campuses in Madrid and Segovia, and 75% of our students coming to study from outside Spain, IE University students learn from each other’s international experiences, culture, customs and languages.
- IE University ranks as the top university in Spain, 7th in Europe, and 27th worldwide for Global Employability University Ranking by the Times Higher Education 2018.
IE University is a pioneer in innovative programmes that approach areas of study in a different way. Innovation thrives in an environment that is flexible and adaptable, where the capacity to think ahead and cultivate new skills is considered essential for a top tier education.
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam:
- is listed among the world’s top universities in various rankings
- offers 120 English taught programmes at bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral level. Ten faculties share one campus and cover a wide spectrum of business, law, science, arts, and medicine studies
with more than 23,000 students, of which 3,000 are international, the university conducts cutting-edge research into problems of societal and scientific importance
- is located in the vibrant city of Amsterdam, one of the most multicultural cities in the world, with the largest concentration of students in the Netherlands and where English is the second language
- is surrounded by one of the most dynamic and fast-growing business districts in the Netherlands, hosting over 700 companies
- is a modern campus university with student housing just a five-minute bike ride away. We arrange housing for you
- 78 nationalities work and study closely together, creating an international and dynamic academic community
- provides high quality education in small and highly interactive classes
- welcomes all cultures, nationalities and religions. Students look beyond the boundaries of scientific disciplines, and try to seek tangible solutions for a better world
- distinguishes itself in research and education, through four interdisciplinary themes: human health and life sciences, science for sustainability, connected world and governance for society
Maastricht University, the Netherlands
Established in 1976, Maastricht University (UM) is the youngest research university in the Netherlands. UM stands out for its:
Strong international orientation
- We offer a wide range of English-taught bachelor’s programmes and master’s programmes.
- Almost half of the student population and a third of our academic staff are non-Dutch.
- UM ranks 6th in both the Times Higher Education 100 under 50 ranking and the QS ‘top 50 under 50’ ranking.
Small-scale learning modelEducation at UM is unique thanks to our learning model: Problem-Based Learning (PBL). Although ‘small scale’ and ‘personal’ may not be terms you would immediately associate with a university classroom, it is around these concepts that PBL revolves. Working in groups of a maximum of 15, you actively discuss and solve problems with your fellow students and tutors.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us, by sending us an e-mail.
Interested in studying in the USA? We can help!
American universities are becoming increasingly popular for UK and international students. Last year, over 9,400 UK students and over 700,000 total international students chose American universities for their studies.
As part of the EducationUSA network, we are the official source of information on applying to American universities for the United Kingdom. Visit our website for a step-by-step guide to applying for US study or attend one of our US study events, including our annual USA College Day fair.