The number of UK students who go abroad as part of their degree programme has increased by as much as 39 per cent in the space of a year.
Analysis of Higher Education Statistics Agency data reveals that 28,640 students at British universities went overseas to study, work or volunteer during 2013-14, compared with 18,105 the previous year. Of the 2013-14 figure, 22,100 were UK-domiciled students.
The UK Higher Education International Unit, which carried out the study, acknowledges that improved reporting contributed to the rise, because trips lasting less than four weeks were recorded for the first time in 2013‑14.
But when stays of four weeks or more only are compared year-on-year, there is an increase of 47.4 per cent, or 39.3 per cent when only UK domiciles are counted.
Most students who go abroad do so in their second and third years, and the unit’s analysis suggests that 2.5 per cent of all students in these cohorts went overseas in 2013-14, compared with 2 per cent the previous year.
Vivienne Stern, the unit’s director, said that it was clear that there had been a “significant increase” in mobility regardless of improvements in data collection. “It shows a growing commitment to outward student mobility at the very top of our universities and a recognition that overseas experience brings real benefits to students including in terms of future employability,” she said.
The data were released ahead of the Going Global conference for international education, which will be held in London on 1 and 2 June.
At the event, the British Council will release statistics showing that the number of UK students going abroad via the European Union’s Erasmus mobility programme during 2013-14 rose by 6.8 per cent year-on-year, to 15,566.
The organisation will also share a report showing that 34 per cent of 2,856 British students who were surveyed said that they were interested in studying abroad. This was down 3 per cent year-on-year, but was still significantly higher than the 20 per cent result in 2013.
Forty-nine per cent of respondents said that the cost of UK tuition fees played a role in their interest in overseas study. But living costs and limited language skills were a key deterrent.