International study statistics

Where do international students go to study?

Higher education students have various options across the globe for experiencing a new country while working towards their degree. As well as expanding your understanding of the wider world, some courses can even be more financially friendly when studying overseas than they would be in certain regions of the UK.

In the 2017/2018 school year, 34,025 UK students studied abroad, while over 10 times this number (458,520) came from overseas to enrol in universities in the UK. Of these international students, Chinese students made up 20% (89,318 students).

Quick facts

  • In 2017/2018, 34,025 UK students studied abroad.
  • Of the 2.34 million students in the UK, Chinese students makes up 4%, or almost 90,000.
  • In 2017/2018, international enrolment at UK universities increased by 3.6% compared to the previous year.

Top 20 countries for UK international students

The bar chart below shows the United States to be the most popular destination for UK international students.

Destination country Number of international students
United States 10,279
Australia 2,235
France 1,999
Ireland 1,791
Canada 1,632
Denmark 898
Bulgaria 890
United Arab Emirates 869
Austria 807
Spain 795
Switzerland 626
Czechia 565
New Zealand 498
Hungary 490
South Africa 408
Italy 394
Japan 391
Sweden 391
Belgium 374
Saudi Arabia 370
The number of international students choosing to study in the United States is almost five times higher than the next most popular destination, Australia. The United States is so popular that these students make up almost a third (30%) of all UK international students. With an average of 201 students’ difference between each country, Australia, France, Ireland and Canada are not drastically different in popularity.

By number of international students, North America is the most popular continent to study in. This is likely due to English being the native language spoken in the two largest countries here. 13 of the countries in the top 20 list are in Europe, making it the continent with the vastest distribution of UK students across its countries.

Where do international students in the UK come from?

The vast majority of international students in the UK are Chinese. The number of Chinese students studying in the UK is 2.6 times higher than the number of all UK students studying abroad.

Country of origin Number of international students
China 89,318
Malaysia 17,360
India 16,655
Nigeria 16,072
United States 15,654
Germany 12,963
Italy 12,086
France 12,076
Ireland 10,191
Greece 9,769
Saudi Arabia 8,427
Spain 7,767
Singapore 7,512
Romania 7,190
Bulgaria 6,191
Thailand 5,992
Canada 5,931
Poland 5,631
Pakistan 5,488
Norway 5,195

Of the 2.34 million students in the UK, Chinese students make up 4%, or almost 90,000. Following Chinese students, Malaysian students are the next-largest group, but these students still only make up around a fifth of the international Chinese student cohort.

What international students in the UK plan on doing after their course

Final year UK international students were asked to report what they expected to do following their degrees. The findings from EU and non-EU students are presented below.

EU students Non-EU students
Further study in the UK 13.7% 15.2%
Further study outside of the UK 16.4% 8.2%
Look for a job in the UK 25.5% 18.9%
Look for a job outside of the UK 13.5% 21.1%
Take up job offer I already have in the UK 8.7% 5.4%
Take up job offer I already have in another country 6.4% 12.0%
Travel 4.8% 8.4%
Don't know 11.0% 10.8%
With 40% of both EU and non-EU students looking for jobs inside and outside the UK, job searching was the most popular option for graduates. Of those 40%, 65% of EU students plan on looking for a job within the UK, while 53% of non-EU students plan on looking outside of the UK.
Non-EU students are more likely to take up a job offer they already have in another country than a job offer they have in the UK (2.4 times more likely). Meanwhile, EU students are 1.5 times more likely to take up a UK-based job than one abroad.
A great proportion of students also consider further study following their degree. This option was chosen by 30% of EU and 23% of non-EU students. Non-EU students have a greater preference for further study in the UK, with 7% more respondents choosing this option. EU students appear more impartial, with only a 2% difference between options.

Click here for more research. For all media enquiries, please contact:

Matt Mckenna
UK communications manager
T: +44 20 8191 8806

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