When can you study abroad?

A new study from the University of Warwick has found that students who are studying abroad are more likely to study at university than students who don’t study overseas, a finding that may be related to their own social circumstances.

The study, published in the British Journal of Sociology, examined students who lived in two countries between the ages of 16 and 25 and who had completed at least three years of study.

Those who were studying abroad were more likely than those who lived abroad to complete the degree course and to have graduated from university. 

What did we find?

Students who lived overseas were more than three times as likely as those who did not live overseas to have completed at most half of their degree.

The majority of the difference came from those who completed the degree but who did so without completing their coursework. 

How did this study work?

The researchers used data from the Oxford University Survey of Students in England, a nationally representative sample of 4,812 university students.

The survey is based on the same methodology used to measure the number of students who completed a degree. 

The researchers also used data collected from the 2011 National Survey of Student Attitudes and Behaviour (NSSAB) and a follow-up survey in the year 2020.

The NSSAB asked students about their attitudes towards education, the quality of their learning and their academic achievements.

The results are similar to previous research on the study’s impact on university enrolment. 

This study did not find a relationship between students’ social circumstances and the likelihood of studying abroad.

However, students who live abroad were less likely than other students to have a stable, close family or social network, and the proportion of students living abroad who had been unemployed or working was higher than the proportion in the general population.

What are the implications for UK policy? 

It is possible that students studying abroad who are at high risk of having difficulty finding suitable study places are more interested in going abroad and therefore more likely, for example, to take the opportunity to study abroad.

The authors suggest that the lack of a clear link between social circumstances, language and study abroad experiences and the rate of university completion could lead to increased pressure on students to complete their degree, resulting in fewer opportunities to earn a living outside the UK. 

More research is needed to understand the reasons for the difference in the outcomes between students living overseas and those who don.

In addition, there is still a long way to go before students living in other countries are less likely to finish their degree at university.