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Motivations for studying in the UK

What motivates so many learners to come to the UK to study? Find out in this article about the main factors that influence students in their choices.
5 students standing in a museum looking at artefacts in a glass cabinets
© British Council

The UK is a popular destination for international students. In 2016/17, there were over 400,000 non-UK university students enrolled on undergraduate and post-graduate degree programmes in the UK.

What motivates so many learners to come to the UK to study? In the video in Step 1.4, you heard Lina and Hayder respond to this question. They talked about about wanting to study with other international students to gain different perspectives, as well as developing their skills, and having access to the latest research in their fields of study. Now read more about the main factors that influence students in their choices.

1. To get a high-quality education

Many students choose the UK to get a top education and to enjoy the reputational benefits of having a UK degree. UK universities are consistently at the top of the world rankings for their overall quality. The UK has a reputation for world-leading excellence in research and innovation in a range of disciplines. It is also renowned for its high academic standards and innovative teaching methods.

Did you know? In 2014, the UK was only 0.9% of the world’s population, but produced 15.2% of the world’s most highly-cited academic articles [1].

2. To develop excellent English language skills

English is widely recognised as a global language for education, travel, business, and commerce. Students value the opportunity to improve their language skills through studying their subject intensively in English while living in an English-speaking country. Specialised English and academic skills support classes or workshops further enable students to enhance their language abilities.

Did you know? English is the world’s most studied language. It is estimated that about 1.5 billion people speak English, although most of them are not native speakers [2].

3. To improve career prospects

Studying at a UK university is an opportunity to gain knowledge, skills, and experience valued by employers globally. This can be in the classroom, through formal professional or industrial placements, in part-time work, or even through volunteer activities. Some university programmes combine an academic degree with professional accreditation. At the end of their degree, students will have made connections with people from all around the world and will have earned an internationally recognised qualification.

Did you know? More than 80% of employers around the world actively seek graduates who have studied abroad [3].

4. To gain cultural experience

The UK is a diverse, multicultural country and UK universities welcome international students as part of a global academic community. Although academic study is an important part of the university experience, students are also encouraged to enjoy activities outside the classroom, such as clubs, societies, or sports. In addition to learning about the UK, students in the UK are able to make friends from other countries, learn more about different cultures, and enhance their intercultural awareness.

#WeAreInternational is a campaign supported by the British Council and over 100 British universities, to celebrate and highlight the importance of our diverse international student and staff communities.

Did you know? In 2016/17, almost 40% of all postgraduate students in the UK were international. London had the largest number of international students [4].

Now that you’ve read some of the key motivations for studying in the UK, we’d like to hear from you.

Which factors motivate you?

Post your response as a comment below.


  1. Performance of the UK research base: international comparison, 2016 [Internet]. Elsevier; 2017 [cited 27 June 2018].
  2. How Many People Speak English, And Where Is It Spoken? [Internet]. The Babbel Magazine. 2018 [cited 27 June 2018].
  3. Are current UK graduates properly prepared for the global workplace? [Internet]. Times Higher Education (THE). 2018 [cited 27 June 2018].
  4. Latest facts, figures and trends in higher education [Internet]. 2018 [2019 report].
© British Council
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