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U.S. is the third-largest source of international students in the UK

The student town of Oxford in the UK. Oxford University is known to be the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Image via Ritu Manoj Jethani/Shutterstock.

The number of U.S. students enrolling into UK higher education institutions reached peak figures for the 2015-2016 academic year, according to the UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

Based on its latest data, the total number had risen to 17,115 American students studying at British universities – the highest figure recorded by the agency for incoming U.S. students.

The total saw the U.S. leapfrogging over India and Nigeria to become the third largest source country for international students to the UK.

HESA data

Level of study 2011-12 2014-15 2015-16 Percentage change 2011-12 to 2015-16 Percentage change

2014-15 to 2015-16

First degree 4,180 4,800 5,155 23% 7%
All 16,335 16,865 17,115 12% 2%
Source: Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)

The Institute for International Education’s Open Doors data found that more than 38,000 Americans studied abroad in the UK on short-term programmes and is the most popular study abroad destination for U.S. students.

Its popularity is likely due to the fact that depending on the university, most American students who have been accepted to a UK institution can apply for U.S. federal student loans, which will help cover tuition fees and cost of living.

Emily Jones from California, an International Business undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh, told the Fulbright Commission: “The opportunity to study at a university with a student body population composed of over 50 nationalities was incredibly exciting, and I am still excited every time I meet someone from across the globe.

“To this date, I have found that the most significant benefit from my British undergraduate education is the diversity I am exposed to every day. I’ve discovered new, creative ways of thinking that I hope I can share with others upon return to the United States.”

UCAS data

2013 2016 2017 Percentage change from 2013 to 2017 Percentage change from 2015 to 2016
US applicants as of main January application deadline 2,170 3,260 3,220 19% -1%
Source: Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)

Vice versa, U.S. universities welcomed around 11,600 British students during the same period, which was the largest year-on-year increase in British students at U.S. universities for over 30 years.

Penny Egan CBE, executive director of the US-UK Fulbright Commission, said: “For many years the admiration for our two higher education systems has been mutual and at the US-UK Fulbright Commission I am pleased to see this continues. Senator Fulbright’s vision of a world brought closer together through education lives on through these British and American students crossing the Atlantic.”

The number of Americans applying to UK universities for their undergraduate degrees next year remains high – according to UCAS data published in February this year, up to 3,220 American students applied through UCAS for entry in 2017 so far, an increase of 19 percent over the last five application cycles.

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