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Choosing what to study

Top ten most popular courses for international students

What do international students study at universities in the UK? We count down the ten most popular course choices for overseas students

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Every year, thousands of students from overseas enrol at universities throughout the UK. If you're tempted to join the crowd, but undecided on what course to study, our list of the most popular subject areas for overseas students* may help.

*Based on data supplied by Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited (HESA), 2014–2015. To comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Human Rights Acts 1998, all student numbers are rounded to the nearest five.

10. Physical sciences

Total number of international students: 6,335

Physical sciences students are any who study non-living systems. Branches of physical sciences include physics, astronomy, chemistry and earth science – giving you plenty of choice. With so much yet to discover, your skills in the graduate world are sure to be in demand. 

9. Languages

Total number of international students: 6,790

How fitting that, in an interconnected world where students can pursue their dreams almost anywhere, the study of languages is among the most popular courses for overseas students. As a language student, you benefit from flexible degrees, and graduates with high-level language skills are highly sought after by many employers. 

8. Computer science

Total number of international students: 9,230

Computer science students learn all about the theory that underpins the computer programmes we use every day. Like it or not, we're living in the digital age and human addiction to the world of technology is showing no signs of letting up soon. Join in and help build our future by studying computer science at university.

7. Medicine subjects

Total number of international students: 9,230

This is a broad area, encompassing a number of courses including those related to biomedical sciences, nursing and physiotherapy. Got a desire to improve society's health, whether that be by pioneering new medicines or providing treatment and therapy? A course that falls under the umbrella of subjects allied to medicine may suit.

6. Biological sciences

Total number of international students: 13,220

Biological scientists learn all about the science of life. Contrary to the physical sciences, you'll be studying living systems. Interested in living organisms? Be that humans, animals, bacteria or plants, there's bound to be a biological sciences course fit for you.

5. Law

Total number of international students: 13,705

Law and civilisation go hand in hand, so it's no surprise that courses exploring the process of law are so popular. Law at undergraduate level is perfect for those seeking a career as a lawyer or in a related field, but if you're just interested in the subject, it can still help. The course provides a number of sought-after skills including research, analysis and interpretation. 

4. Creative arts and design

Total number of international students: 16,690

Follow your passion by studying a creative art or design subject and join thousands of other like-minded people in the process. Graduate prospects for art and design students aren't the strongest, but the truly talented will go far.

3. Social studies

Total number of international students: 20,925

If you’re interested in people, you can enrol on a social studies course and, broadly speaking, study people. Whether you choose to learn about the complex forces driving society today or use your skills on a more applied degree such as social work, there's sure to be a social studies course to suit your interests. 

2. Engineering and technology

Total number of international students: 27,760

Want to be at the forefront of developing new technologies for a range of industries including transport, healthcare, construction and robotics? Study engineering at university and you're sure to be. Don't worry about life after university, the oft-reported engineering skills gap means you're likely to find employment in no time.  

1. Business and administrative studies

Total number of international students: 58,135

The huge number of international students choosing the UK as the destination for their business-related degrees is reflective of both the quality of higher education and the UK's position as a commercial world leader. And if you take a course in business and administrative studies, you’ll gain a wealth of skills that can be applied across most industries and sectors

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