The number of British students studying abroad has plummeted, a British Council report has found.
A reluctance to leave family and friends and a lack of foreign language skills have dampened the desire of UK students to venture overseas, according to a survey of more than 1,000 undergraduates.
Just 18 per cent were interested in some form of overseas study, down from 34 per cent in 2015. The report by education organisation the British Council said living costs abroad and tuition fees were the biggest turn-off for more than half of those who said they did not want to study abroad. This was followed by difficulty leaving loved ones, being happy in their life in the UK and a lack of confidence in foreign languages.
More than a third said they believed the UK offered the best quality education for their chosen subject. Brexit was also cited as a factor, with students concerned whether they would be accepted into study abroad programmes following the UK’s exit from the EU, and if so, how much it would cost them.
As well as suggesting new funding models, the report recommended better communication by institutions to explain the benefits or opportunities around studying abroad in more detail. For those who did wish to study abroad, a love of travel and adventure, the opportunity to experience a different culture and the chance to build their confidence were found to be the key motivations. The United States remained the most popular destination for studying abroad, followed by Canada, Germany and France. However whilst America may still be the number one destination of choice for UK students that want to go abroad, the proportion of respondents that said they wanted to go to the US fell to 22 per cent, from 40 per cent in 2015.
The study said that this is “most likely a symptom of UK students’ reaction to the changing political context in the US”. Canada is now the second most attractive destination, with 10 per cent of students choosing the country, up from 5 per cent in 2015, while Germany is third at 9 per cent (up from 6 per cent).
Zainab Malik, research director for the British Council’s research service Education Intelligence, said: “Today’s students face a quickly transforming world and have to contend with instability on a number of fronts.
“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.” According to the study, 70% of those not considering overseas study said they could be encouraged to do so if they could get help with funding, while other motivations included evidence it could improve job prospects (54%), opportunities for foreign language training (43%) and the chance to make friends (37%).