US undergrads choose UK

New HESA data shows a 28% increase in Americans pursuing full undergraduate degrees at British universities over the past 4 years

New data released by the UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show an increased number of American students studying for full first degrees in the UK.

A record 4,346 US students studied at British universities at the undergraduate level in 2012-13, marking an approximate 4% increase over the previous year.

Undergraduate study has become increasingly popular amongst US students, as the number of Americans pursuing their first degree in the UK has risen by about 28% since 2008-09. Additionally, UCAS is reporting an 8% rise in US applicants for courses starting in 2014-15, to a total of 2,933 applicants submitting almost 10,500 applications to UK universities. The number of postgraduate students has levelled off after years of dramatic growth.

The increase of students of all levels of study, from across the Atlantic has especially benefited English and Scottish institutions. They have seen a noticeable increase of US students since 2008-09, with attendance rising 14% and 17% respectively. The top five institutions hosting US students include St Andrews, Oxford, Edinburgh, University College London and University of Westminster.

What’s fuelling this trend? UK universities have stepped up their recruitment of American students in recent years. Eight institutions are now members of the Common Application, a US university application system, making it even easier for Americans to submit applications for undergraduate study. Three of these universities are Scottish, including St Andrews which hosted the most number of Americans in 2012-13. In addition, some UK universities have opened recruitment offices in the States or increased their recruitment activities.

International students in the UK collectively paid an estimated £10.2bn in tuition fees and living expenses in 2011-12 (BIS). US students constitute approximately 5% of the international student body (non-EU students) in the UK – bringing their knowledge and experiences to UK institutions and enriching the profile of UK campuses.

Penny Egan CBE, Executive Director, US-UK Fulbright Commission, said: “Despite the fact that the UK has seen its first decline in non-EU students in 20 years, it’s not all doom and gloom. This newly released data shows that the world-class education available in the UK is still a huge draw to international students, in particular Americans.”

What attracts US students to the UK? Key factors are the strong reputation of the British higher education system, the shorter length of the degrees and increased competitiveness on the job market. Additionally, unlike their British peers, American students are able to use their US government loans to complete full degrees abroad, when scholarships are not available.

Paul Smith, Director of the British Council in USA, said: “It’s great to see more American students choosing to study in the UK every year. The challenges of the 21st century are global in nature and scope. US students choosing a British undergraduate degree have the benefit not only of an excellent education but also an international experience that will serve as a valuable asset to their future careers. The more young people who take the opportunity to study overseas, the more future leaders we will have who can view the world with a responsible international perspective.”


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