Where do Cambridge International students go to university and what do they study? A look at key trends 2017 to 2020

Every year, Cambridge International sends out a survey to over 2,500 schools in over 130 countries. We ask schools to let us know where their AS & A Level students from the previous year have chosen to go to university, and what subjects they have elected to study.

While not all schools respond to the survey, the responses that we do get give us a good picture of the top destinations for our students, and an idea of how the trends are evolving over time.

How many Cambridge International students go on to study at university and where do they go?

Data from our 2017, 2018 and 2019 surveys show that over 93% of Cambridge International AS & A Level students go on to study at university.

The traditional English-speaking countries of UK, USA, Canada and Australia remain the most popular destinations for Cambridge International students.

In 2019, the top ten destinations for Cambridge students going abroad to study were:

  1. United Kingdom
  2. United States
  3. Canada
  4. Australia
  5. South Africa
  6. Pakistan
  7. Malaysia
  8. Netherlands
  9. China (Mainland)
  10. Hong Kong (SAR), China

When asked what the reasons are for choosing the top four destinations, schools told us that future career opportunities attract students to the USA, Canada and Australia, while university reputation is the most important factor attracting students to the UK.

In terms of which universities students go to, in 2019, around 68% of Cambridge students went on to attend a top-500 ranked university, compared to 53% in 2018.

How many students stay in their home country?

Of those going to university, roughly three in five students stay in their own countries, with the rest going abroad to study. One of the factors given for staying at home is the cost of going to study abroad.

However, this balance could be changing. In the 2019 survey, 30% of schools said that the trend for their Cambridge students to go to university abroad is increasing. Most schools say this is thanks to greater awareness of the options for international education.

What are the most popular subjects among Cambridge International students and have they changed?

The trends in the most popular subjects among Cambridge International students at university (in-country and abroad) have remained stable over recent years. The only noticeable change is that computer science/ICT programmes are steadily rising up the list in terms of popularity. The ten most popular subjects in 2019 were:

  1. Business & Management
  2. Engineering
  3. Medicine
  4. Computer Science / ICT
  5. Accounting & Finance
  6. Economics
  7. Biological Sciences
  8. Psychology
  9. Law
  10. Creative Arts & Design

What are the most striking trends from the last three years?

Schools are telling us that the traditional university destinations of the UK and US are losing some of their historic pull among students. Both countries have suffered from the impact of strong currencies, meaning that students have been looking elsewhere for ‘better value for money’.

Students are also becoming more aware of the wide range of study options open to them. Many teachers report a diversification in the countries that students are prepared to consider, in particular Canada and the Netherlands.

However, the UK remains a popular destination for schools in Europe and China, with over half of outbound students from these regions heading to the UK.

To find out more about all the universities that accept Cambridge qualifications worldwide and more, please visit the Cambridge International Recognitions web pages: https://www.cambridgeinternational.org/programmes-and-qualifications/recognition-and-acceptance/

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