Best places to study abroad

Rachel Swain, Editorial manager
January, 2020

With high quality education available all over the world it's difficult to choose where to study. Narrow down your options with these popular study abroad destinations 

International study appeals to UK students for a number of reasons, such as the opportunity for adventure and to explore rich cultures, the chance to learn a second language and to improve job prospects. Let us talk you through five of the global leaders…


A common destination for gap year backpackers, Australia also has a strong reputation for higher education. Indeed, it is an attractive proposition for postgraduates wishing to study in a culturally diverse location that places a strong emphasis on the great outdoors.

As far as international student populations go, Oz is home to nearly 700,000 foreign students, so you'll be in good company. However, the country regularly tops the list as the priciest country for overseas students and based on average annual tuition fees and living expenses, studying Down Under typically costs more than £30,000 a year.

Despite the significant expense, British students are still drawn to Australia thanks to the good quality of life and the country's standing as an educational hotspot. In fact, Melbourne and Sydney are frequently named among the best student cities in the world.

Australia has 43 institutions that offer higher education, set up in a similar way to the UK. The country has 35 universities in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020, with six in the top 100. The highest placed is the University of Melbourne, which sits in 32nd position, followed by the Australian National University (ANU) in 50th spot and the University of Sydney coming in 60th.

You'll need a student visa to study in Australia, with the type you require depending on the course that you apply for.

Find out more about studying in Australia.


While Canada is the second largest country in the world, the majority of its population live close to the USA border. The country is famous for its wealth of natural beauty (and maple syrup), but can also be proud of its high academic standards.

Canada welcomes thousands of overseas students every year, attracted by its assortment of friendly, lively and multicultural cities. For example, Montreal and Toronto are regularly voted among the best student cities in the world.

You could spend between one and three years studying a full-time Masters degree - or 'grad' programme, as it's known. In return for your time, money and hard work, you'll get a globally recognised qualification.

An impressive five Canadian universities make the top 100 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020 with the University of Toronto at the top of the list in 18th place, followed by the University of British Columbia in 34th.

While you'll need to factor in the cost of administration and application fees, tuition is less expensive than in the UK. What's more, a number of scholarships and bursaries - for example the International Tuition Award - are available to international students. While Canada might not be the cheapest in terms of living costs, the country regularly features highly in standard of living indexes.

English is just one of two official languages in Canada. However, you're unlikely to need to speak the other, French, if your study destination is outside of Quebec.

If you plan to stay in the country for longer than six months, you'll need a study permit.

Learn more about studying in Canada.


Just a hop, skip and a jump away by plane, train or ferry France's close proximity to the UKs shores certainly factors in the country's popularity with students looking to study abroad. However, the short distance from home isn't the only reason. French higher education particularly that provided in Paris is known to be world class.

Known as the City of Lights, Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world and it's not hard to see why. From its thriving arts and fashion scene and royal palaces to its beautiful architecture and trendy cafes.

Université PSL, Sorbonne University and École Polytechnique are the top ranked institutions in the country, according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020.

Low tuition fees go some way to offset high living costs in the capital city, so while fees may be cheap you'll still need to budget to live comfortably.

Discover what it's like to study in France.


More than 350,000 students from around the world choose to study in Germany every year, which says plenty about its higher education system and publicly-funded Masters programmes. Indeed, there are more international students in Germany than in any other country in the European Union (EU) besides the UK.

To be eligible for postgraduate study, you'll need to pass an entrance qualification known as the Abitur. It's nothing to worry about - it's simply a high school leavers' certificate.

Many universities are free to attend for international students, but it's important to check that this is the case for your course. Some Masters programmes may incur a fee - however this will be considerably less than in the UK.

In addition to universities (Universitäten), there are also specialised institutions and universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen). These offer courses in engineering, technology and business. Many programmes are taught in English, but a grasp of German will come in handy. German admissions are not centralised, so you should contact the individual institution directly.

An impressive 48 German universities can be found in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020. Setting the standard in 32nd position is LMU Munich followed by Technical University of Munich (43rd) and Heidelberg University (44th).

Berlin and Munich are regularly voted among the most affordable student cities, with both locations boasting low living costs.

As Germany is an EU nation, British students don't need a study visa.

Find out more about studying in Germany.


Often labelled the 'land of opportunity', the USA is a great place to study. The country spans six time zones and is one of the world's finest education providers.

With 172 American higher education establishments listed in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020 - not to mention seven within the top ten - it's fair to say that the country merits its place as the number one destination for international students.

The California Institute of Technology sits proudly at the summit, but the range of quality options in both rural and city settings is what makes the USA such a prime postgraduate location. Major student cities include New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles, which house many of the country's top universities such as:

  • Columbia University (New York)
  • Harvard University (Boston)
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (Boston)
  • New York University
  • Stanford (San Francisco)
  • University California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • University of Chicago.

Studying in the USA isn't without a hefty price tag but with varying costs it's worth doing your research before committing. You can apply for funding from sources such as the US-UK Fulbright Commission, which offers around 20 scholarships a year.

You'll need an F-1 visa and must be accepted and approved on your course before applying for one. You'll then be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

Learn more about studying in the USA.

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