Studying abroad offers a different way of learning – giving you exciting new cultural experiences and opportunities to develop and grow. Is it right for you? Consider your options and find out.

Five reasons to study abroad 

Are you weighing up the pros and cons of studying abroad or in the UK? There are personal and academic benefits to studying abroad, and it will give you a fantastic opportunity to immerse youself in a different culture to gain a better understanding of the world. There's lots to think about, but here are our top five reasons why you should consider studying abroad:  

  1. It can be cheaper – higher education in the UK isn’t necessarily the most cost-effective choice. 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.
  2. Stand out from the crowd – there are thousands of graduates with similar qualifications seeking jobs every year. Studying abroad will help you stand out – it’ll give you more life experience, cultural awareness, and perhaps a different perspective on life to your fellow graduates.
  3. 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 in completely different surroundings?
  4. Get international-savvy – in our global economy, an awareness of the wider world 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.
  5. Whet your appetite for adventure – want to see the world but can’t justify an extended holiday? Combine the two and study abroad where you can explore as extensively as you like!

What you need to think about...

Choosing to go to a uni abroad for any duration of your undergraduate studies will mean you get to fully immerse yourself in a completely new culture.  Whichever option you’re thinking about, there are some important things to consider.

  • Is it right for meIt’s important to focus on choosing the right subject and course for you – don’t focus on just getting the overseas experience.
  • How much does it cost? Carefully consider the costs associated with living and studying – both in the UK and abroad. You’ll need to think about course fees too.
  • Will I get a loan or funding? 
    • ​​Students on exchange programmes, enrolled on a course at a UK university, remain eligible for student loans in the UK. Some grants may also be available. 
    • 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.
  • Do I need a visa? 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.
  • Can I work part-time? 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 do I 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.

What are the pros and cons of studying abroad?

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.

Pros Cons
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.

Remember...

  • 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).

Facts and figures about studying abroad

Choosing to study abroad can prove to employers that you're flexible and culturally mobile. Many employers also think studying abroad gives you 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

Top ten subject areas for overseas study in 2014/15 

  1. Languages, linguistics, and literature
  2. Business and administrative studies
  3. Medicine and dentistry
  4. Social studies
  5. Creative arts and design
  6. Biological sciences
  7. Physical sciences
  8. Historical and philosophical studies
  9. Subjects allied to medicine
  10. Law

Top ten destinations for UK students

  1. France – 3,560
  2. United States – 3,045
  3. Spain – 2,920
  4. Germany – 1,705
  5. Australia – 1,385
  6. Canada – 1,025
  7. Italy – 885
  8. China – 700
  9. Netherlands – 690
  10. Japan – 375

Length of study placements

  • One week – 1,955
  • 30 weeks – 1,335
  • Two weeks – 880
  • 52 weeks – 860
  • Eight weeks – 835