The proportion of UK students who are looking to study or work in mainland Europe reached the highest level in 2012/13 since the Erasmus programme was launched 25 years ago.

This is likely to be due, at least in part, to the tuition fees that UK students now face to study at home.

This European Union flagship student mobility scheme saw 14,607 students studying or working in Europe in 2012/13, according to the British Council, which has seen the numbers on the scheme double since it took over running the UK side of it in 2006/7.

Scottish students feature particularly highly, at 13 per cent of those on the scheme, even though they represent just 8.5 per cent of the UK's overall student population.

Ruth Sinclair-Jones, the British Council's head of EU programmes, said: "The international experience offered through Erasmus has been shown to make a real difference in terms of people's employability. So while students in Scotland deserve praise for reaching out and looking to gain highly sought-after international skills, it is a concern that students in England and Wales are beginning to slip behind.

"The UK overall is only sixth in terms of total students participating in Erasmus; we lag far behind France, Germany and Spain, who have almost three times as many young people gaining vital skills which we all need to compete in a global market."
The University of Nottingham sent the most Erasmus students abroad for England (522); the University of Edinburgh the most in Scotland (356); Cardiff University the most in Wales (291); and Queen's University Belfast, with 234 Erasmus students, the most for Northern Ireland.

Ms Sinclair-Jones added: "Erasmus is for all students, and is an ideal way to learn another language and culture. As the number of specialist foreign-language courses declines in the UK, Erasmus is becoming even more essential. Research suggests that the UK's students are aware of the benefits of overseas experience, and it is, of course, positive that more of the UK's students continue to look to spend time abroad and catch up on our European neighbours.
"But these latest results suggest that English students need to embrace this golden opportunity or risk being left further behind in the race for the best jobs."
Erasmus offers grants for a study or work placement of three to 12 months in one of 30 European countries.