United Kingdom - Country Commercial Guide
Education and Training

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2022-03-30

Capital:  London

Population:  67.1 million (June 2020 est.)

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity):  $2.798 trillion (2020 est., in 2017 dollars)  

Currency:  British Pounds (GBP)

Language:  English


UNESCO Student Mobility Number

The United Kingdom has 39,504 students studying abroad according to UNESCO.


CIA World Factbook

In the United Kingdom, 29.12% of the population is under the age of 25.



According to the Institute of International Education’s 2021 Open Doors Report, the United Kingdom was 16th among senders of students to the United States.  The UK dropped 2 places from its 2019-2020 position of 14th.  8,028 international students from the UK studied at U.S. higher education institutions during the academic year 2020-2021.  This represents a 25.4% decrease from the 2019-2020 academic year number of 10,756.  The total number of international students studying in the U.S. decreased by 15%.  International students contributed $39 billion to the U.S. economy in 2020 (Department of Commerce).

UK students contributed $398 million to the U.S. economy, a decrease of 11% from the previous year.  The UK also dropped from first to third most popular destination for U.S. study abroad students.



Higher Education: The United Kingdom’s education system is well-established, with a highly regarded international reputation.  The best prospects for attracting British students to the United States lie in the undergraduate and graduate levels of study.  According to the U.S.-UK Fulbright Commission, the primary motivators for British students to study in the U.S. include the quality and flexibility of American academic programs (liberal arts), the availability of scholarship funding, athletic/sporting opportunities, and the ability to experience and be a part of U.S. culture and campus life.

Undergraduate Education: According to Open Doors 2021, 53.6% of UK students studying in the U.S. are doing so at the undergraduate level.  This represents a 19.1% decline from last year (4,299 undergraduate students in 2020-2021 vs. 5,314 in 2019-2020).   

Graduate Education: Graduate students make up 28.7% of UK students studying within the United States.  Last year, 2,557 students made up the graduate population and in 2020, there has been a 10.0% decrease for a new total of 2,301 students studying at the graduate level.

Non-degree Education and Optional Practical Training (OPT):  Non-degree education suffered the greatest decline in UK students of any category.  From 2019-2020 to 2020-2021, non-degree students dropped from 1,606 to 184, a decline of 88.5%.  There are 1,244 UK students who are OPT students.  Non-degree students currently represent just 2.3% of UK students in the U.S.



As a result of widespread teleworking and online learning throughout 2020 and 2021, the UK market has become more accustomed to education and training delivered in a digital format.  In the past, online or distance learning programs looking to expand into the UK were met with limited success.  However, the adoption rates for online and distance learning have increased and this presents an opportunity for U.S. providers in these areas.

Exchange programs and partnerships with British universities are a common method of market entry.  For U.S. institutions looking to gain exposure and to test the market, there are several UK events of interest (see “Events” section below).

Changes to UK government policy have made U.S. universities more competitive in this market.  Rising university fees and active encouragement of outward mobility are both present opportunities for recruiting British students.  Tuition fees were introduced in England in 1998 and have risen steadily.  The current tuition fee of £9,250 ($11,100 using a rate of 1.2 GBP per 1 USD) in England was set in 2017 and has been frozen pending a university funding review.  Fees in England are the same for all students, whereas other areas of the UK give their domestic students a reduction in fees.  For example, Welsh students in Wales pay £9,000 ($10,800) as opposed to £9,250 ($11,100).  Domestic students in Northern Ireland pay £4,395 ($5,274), and in Scotland, domestic students do not pay university fees.  Following the end of the Brexit transition period on January 1, 2021, students from the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland now pay international tuition rates.

In addition to university studies, UK students are increasingly taking advantage of other options available to them, including apprenticeships, graduate schemes, trainee schemes, or directly entering the workforce.  UK students are a discerning consumer group with a variety of choices and opportunities readily available.







Stephen Brown, Commercial Specialist

U.S. Commercial Service – London, United Kingdom

Phone: +44 20 7891 3451 

Email: Stephen.Brown@trade.gov