Interest in studying overseas at its highest level since 2015, a new study shows. Almost two in five (37%) sixth-formers are now actively considering studying a first degree abroad. This compares with 18% in 2017 and 35% in 2015.

However, uncertainty over the impact of Brexit is also having an effect. Almost a quarter (23%) of the students questioned said that Brexit is making them less likely to consider studying overseas.

Almost a third (29%) say they think that studying overseas would make it easier to get a job if they were to return to the UK after graduation.

The biggest concerns about international study are living costs and tuition fees (39%), leaving family and friends (30%) and a lack of confidence in language skills (15%).

According to the research from Unifrog, an online tool to help sixth form students choose the best universities and apprenticeships, 56% said they would be more likely to consider studying overseas if they could get easier access to funding.

More than half (52%) of the 1,500 school students questioned felt they still needed more information on the opportunities available. And 47% said they would like to speak to someone who's currently studying overseas. Four in five (82%) said that they didn’t know of anyone from their school who was studying their first degree overseas.

Girls appear to need more information than boys if they are to make an application to study outside the UK. 54% wanted more information on the opportunities available compared with 47% of boys. Half (50%) of all students say that family would be supportive of any decision to study overseas.

A third (32%) felt an easier application process was needed. Over a quarter (28%) said knowing that the university provided language tuition would be important in encouraging them to study overseas. One in five (21%) said knowing that some school friends would also be studying at the same university would be advantageous too.

For those wanting to study overseas, a love of travel, adventure and different cultures (43%), the reputation of the university (17%), and financial incentives such as scholarships and bursaries (14%) are the main reasons.

Most popular destinations for this cohort are the USA, Canada, Australia and France. Last year, the #3 position was held by Germany. Boys (43%) are far keener than girls (33%) on studying in the USA. Girls (19%) are keener than boys (14%) on the prospect of studying in Australia. Both (13%) see Canada as equally attractive option.

Daniel Keller, head of business development and delivery at Unifrog says:

“While studying overseas can be more costly it has many benefits, from improving employment chances upon graduation to gaining a wider global perspective.

“While some international student loans are still available for UK students in the EU, for example in the Netherlands, they are not offered by the British government. However with Brexit looming large it’s understandable that a significant minority of sixth-formers now have doubts about whether they should opt to become an international student.

“Beyond the EU, many universities will often expect international students to pay higher fees than home students but many have scholarships and bursaries, specifically for international students, which can be applied for.”

Girls still failing to show interest in studying sciences

According to a separate Unifrog study of almost 34,000 (33,951) sixth-formers, girls are still failing to show as much interest in studying sciences at UK universities as boys despite the growing popularity of STEM subjects at A-Level.

Applications for the majority of undergraduate courses should arrive at UCAS by 18:00 Tuesday, 15 January with engineering, maths, computer science and physics all making it into the top ten preferences for boys. Only biology scrapes into the list of Top 10 most popular preference for girls.

Unifrog suggests that, based on student search behaviour on its platform, the top ten most popular courses for boys will be (in order of popularity): business, economics, engineering, law, medicine, mathematics, computer science, history, physics, and psychology.

The most popular courses girls want to study after A-Levels are: psychology, law, medicine, criminology, history, business, biology, nursing, English, and geography.

The study also suggests that Leeds University is the most desirable place to study according to sixth-formers, followed by Bristol, Nottingham, Exeter and Manchester.

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