Top 5 places to study abroad

Rachel Swain, Editorial manager
September, 2016

With such a high standard of education available at universities across the world, it can be difficult to choose a destination

International study appeals to UK students for a number of reasons, such as the opportunity for adventure, the chance to learn a second language and to improve employability. Allow Prospects to 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.

According to research from currency expert FairFX, Australia was the priciest country for overseas students in 2015/16. Based on average annual tuition fees and living expenses, studying Down Under typically costs more than £27,000 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, it's the third most popular international student destination in the world, after the UK and USA, while 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 31 universities in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-16, with six in the top 100. The highest placed is the University of Melbourne, which sits in 33rd position, followed by the Australian National University (ANU) in 52nd spot.

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.

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 four Canadian universities make the top 100 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-16: the University of Toronto, in 19th position, the University of British Columbia (UBC), in 34th, McGill University, in 38th, and McMaster University, in 94th.

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 destination 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.

Find out more about studying in Canada.


Just a hop, skip and a jump away by plane, train or ferry France's close proximity to our 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 held in high regard all over the world. École Normale Supérieure, École Polytechnique and Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC) are the top ranked institutions in the country, according to the QS World Rankings.

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.

Find out more about studying in France.


More than 250,000 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. However, this is 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 options. Some Masters courses 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 37 German universities can be found in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-16. Setting the standard in 29th position is Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich (LMU), with Heidelberg University (37th), Humboldt University of Berlin (49th), Technical University of Munich (53rd) and Free University of Berlin (72nd) all making the top 100.

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.


The USA is often labelled the 'land of opportunity' and it's easy to see why. The country, which spans six time zones, is one of the world's finest education providers.

With 106 American higher education establishments listed in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-16 - 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 (Caltech) 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. Research from FairFX revealed that tuition fees and living costs could see you pay around £23,592 a year, making it the fourth most expensive country in the world for postgraduate study.

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).

Find out more about studying in the USA.