Image of a globe sat on an academic study book

 by David Hawkins
, posted On 9 Dec '21
 Director and Founder, The University Guys

A school and college guide to international university study opportunities for students

In an increasingly global world, with students connected to friends, celebrities, news and opportunities all over the world at the click of a button - and Zoom allowing us to all keep in touch, today’s students have never been more globally connected, tied into a digital economy that knows no borders.

Yet, when it comes to university, so many focus only on options in the UK. As a result, students are missing out on a huge array of opportunities to find their ‘best fit’ university around the world, or study at the best university in the world for their subject, not just the best in the UK.

Here, I will guide you through some of the key differences, so you can provide initial support to students considering study opportunities overseas.


Students are attracted to the fact that university in other countries doesn’t work in the same way as it does in the UK: on a global spectrum, the typical single-subject, final assessment model that most UK universities offer is quite unusual.

In the USA students will study a broader range of subjects and their ‘major’ will only be about a third of what they study while at university. In the Netherlands (which has over 300 degrees taught entirely in English), the Universities of Applied Science system offer a hands-on style education connected to employers.

Universities across Europe are now offering many international degrees, with options such as the world-class Bachelor of Business Administration at IE Madrid or Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at the Central European University in Vienna offering life- changing opportunities to students who don’t want to follow the crowd.


Application procedures vary widely from UCAS and from country-to-country. When applying to other countries students need to learn new processes, timelines and terminology. Students should start the process at least six months earlier than for UCAS (and, for the US, at least a year earlier due to the probable need to take either the SAT or the ACT).

Image of an aeroplane to support international study opportunities blog

So, where’s popular?

The USA dominates, with universities from the world-class names such as Harvard to lesser-known institutions that compare with the best of the UK. Even in these challenging times, students are working hard preparing university applications to hopefully study at world-leading institutions in California, Florida or New England.

Canada has risen in popularity, with the perception of a more European political and social system, and a favourable immigration regime for post-study work drawing applications to universities such as McGill and Toronto.

Europe is increasingly popular, from studying in English-speaking locations such as Ireland, to courses taught in English across the continent.

A particular trend is for students to look at well-regarded private universities in Europe, who offer modern education in a global context, drawing in international students from all over the world to study in cities such as Milan (for Bocconi University) or Dublin (for Trinity College).

Today’s students are very globally minded

With changes due to Brexit, students will know that being internationally-connected gives them a wealth of job opportunities after graduation.

Students we worked with last year gained offers from 140 universities in 14 countries, from Stanford in the USA to Leiden in the Netherlands, McGill in Canada to ESADE in Spain. These ambitious and global students will have job opportunities on graduation that their peers at provincial UK universities can only dream of. The time is now ripe for more students to seriously consider international universities: the world is out there!

Teachers, careers colleagues and support staff: request your FREE UniTasterDays Teachers' Guide to University brochure.

This brochure has been produced by in collaboration with HELOA - to support the university guidance that is provided in secondary schools and colleges.

Editorial has been provided by over 35 colleagues at universities and higher education institutions throughout the UK. On topics covering how to support students with their university decisions, university events, widening participation & fair access, UCAS applications (including writing school references) and more. It also includes the key student finance facts from Martin Lewis.

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