USA sees largest year-on-year increase in British students for over 30 years

More British students in the US than ever before

  • 11,600 British students in the USA during 2015-16
  • 8% increase from previous academic year is largest since 1982
  • 31% jump in British undergraduates studying for full degrees in the US over the past five academic years (2011-12 to 2015-16)
  • UK maintains status as largest European sender of students to the US
  • Total number of international students in the US reaches over one million for the first time
  • UK remains number one destination for Americans studying abroad

Published today by the Institute for International Education (IIE), figures from the Open Doors 2016 report show the largest year-on-year increase of British students in the US for over 30 years.

In 2015-16 there were 11,600 British students undertaking full undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, short-term study abroad opportunities, or post-study employment under the optional practical training scheme (OPT).

Undergraduates account for almost half the total British student population in the US. 5,680 UK students were studying in the US for their full first degree in 2015-16, an increase of 31% over the past five academic years.

The UK is the largest sender of students to the US in Europe, and the 12th largest sender in the world. The US is the most popular full-degree mobility destination for British students.

Popular responses to a yearly pre-departure survey conducted by the US-UK Fulbright Commission, which tracks the motivations of UK students bound for the States, include the quality and reputation of US universities; the flexibility of the liberal arts curriculum; and the availability of funding.

Students may also be inspired by the recent success of the ground-breaking Sutton Trust US Programme. Over 200 alumni of the programme are now studying at US instituions, accessing over $50 million in funding.

Applications for the sixth year of the programme have just opened ( Run in partnership with the Fulbright Commission, the Sutton Trust US Programme helps British state school students apply to American universities through support, advice and a one-week summer school in the USA. It is free to take part.

Short-term study abroad to the US has also increased by over 30% in the past five years. The United Kingdom also remains the most popular study abroad destination for American students. 

As an EducationUSA advising centre, the US-UK Fulbright Commission promotes US higher education to students in the UK, in addition to offering prestigious scholarships between both countries for postgraduates and professional scholars.

Penny Egan CBE, Executive Director, US-UK Fulbright Commission, said: "An international education is one of the most transformative and valuable experiences available to young people. Both the US and the UK offer excellent opportunities to international students, and at the Fulbright Commission we’re pleased to see this reflected in the consistently high level of educational exchange between our countries."

Ben Hopkins, Bowdoin College Class of 2020 and Sutton Trust US Programme alum, said: "The prospect of studying in the USA and broadening my horizons was irresistible. I wanted to be exposed to a whole new culture and meet inspiring people from across the country and the world. It seemed like an incredible chance to grow intellectually and personally. Having the privilege of a world-class education and amazing academic, extracurricular and social opportunities ensures my time at college will be a life-changing experience."




  • Undergraduates account for 49% of all 11,600 UK students in the US. The remaining UK students are on postgraduate programmes (23%), short-term exchanges as part of a UK degree (19%) or pursuing Optional Practical Training, a post-study work scheme (9%).
  • The UK is the also the #1 study abroad destination for students from the US, with 38,190 Americans studying in the UK.
  • According to last year’s Open Doors 2015, the total number of UK students in the US during 2014-15 was 10,743.
  • For the first time ever, the number of international students in the US has exceeded one million.