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UK universities educated third of international student Nobel Prize winners

Published 06/10/2015

Eighteen of the international students who won awards studied at Cambridge
Eighteen of the international students who won awards studied at Cambridge

More than a third of Nobel Prize winners who studied abroad were schooled in the UK, a study has found.

Fifty international student winners of the coveted award have been educated at UK universities, including Oxford and Cambridge - more than any other country.

The British Council study, which comes in the week the Nobel Institute announces the award winners for 2015, found that more Laureates who studied abroad chose to do so at Oxford, Cambridge and other UK universities than their American and German counterparts.

Since the prize began in 1901, 860 individuals have received the award. Of those, 131 studied overseas for part of their education - 38% did so in Britain.

The most recent Nobel Prize winner who studied in Britain is Randy Schekman - who spent this third year of an undergraduate degree at the University of Edinburgh. The American cell biologist won the 2013 prize for physiology of medicine.

There are currently almost 500,000 international students at UK universities.

Dr Jo Beall, British Council director of education and society, said the attraction for students looking abroad is down to the Britain's "global reputation for excellence".

She added: "The British Council celebrates UK alumni and, without question, Nobel Laureates have changed the world. Their journeys would have begun with their studies at university, so it's wonderful to discover that, for Nobel Laureates who went abroad to pursue their education, more studied in the UK than anywhere else."

On the students arriving at universities across Britain now, Ms Ball said: "It's thrilling to imagine what they will go on to achieve and which of them could be future Nobel Laureates, with their experience here as a springboard to that."

Home Secretary Theresa May has been accused of taking a hard line with international students. In July she called for universities to develop sustainable funding models that are not so dependent on them and also backed a proposal to make those on student visas return home immediately after graduating - they are currently given four months to find work.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, Professor Sir Timothy O'Shea, said: "This research by the British Council affirms the transformative effect that learning in other countries and cultures has - and it is our ambition to offer all our students an international learning experience."

Eighteen of the international students who won awards studied at Cambridge, 11 went to Oxford and five went to the London School of Economics.

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