More UK university students are signing up to work or study abroad, where they can 'gain additional skills'

New figures released by the British Council indicate more university students than ever are joining a programme which allows them to work or study overseas.

Over 14,600 students signed up to the Erasmus exchange programme in the last academic year, a record high for a scheme that launched in 1987.

However, Britain is still some way behind other major European nations like France, Germany and Spain, which each have almost 45,000 students participating in the programme.

In 2012-13, 14,607 British students studied or worked in other European countries, an increase of 7% year-on-year. The number has increased significantly since 1987, when only 925 students participated.

A total of more than 2.5 million university students have studied or worked in another EU country since the Erasmus exchange programme started.

The most recent figures show Russell Group institutions, regarded as some of the best in Britain, tend to have more students join than others.

Nottingham University was out in front with 522 students signing up in the last academic year, ahead of Leeds (459), Sheffield (447), Manchester (438), Bristol (422), Durham (389), Exeter (385), Bath (379), Warwick (367) and University College London (358).

Russell Group organisations dominated the top 10, with only Bath not part of the group.

The research indicates that a total of 305 students at Oxford participated in the scheme in 2012-13, along with 155 at Cambridge.

Vincenzo Raimo, Nottingham's international office director, has revealed the university has aimed for a quarter of its undergraduates to be involved in some kind of international scheme or experience by the year 2014-15.

"Erasmus is a really important part of that," he said.

In the past, some companies have bemoaned a lack of workplace skills, like communication and team work, among graduates.

But Mr Raimo said studying in a different environment away from their comfort zone gives students a boost when it comes to finding work.

"All the evidence out there tells us that students who undertake international activities gain the additional skills employers are looking for," he added.

Copyright Press Association 2013