In this Inbound Insight series article, we look at the United States (US) as a sending country, and explore the priorities of this student cohort when searching for student accommodation in the UK and Europe based on data gathered through the Global Student Living Index.

US outbound destinations

Differences in the way different countries and multi-lateral organisations such as UNESCO collect data on international students make collating an accurate picture of US student outbound mobility challenging. In particular, it is difficult to accurately ascertain the number of US students seeking a full degree abroad. US figures include “credit-mobile” international students – i.e. study abroad/exchange student numbers – whilst UNESCO figures and those of some destination countries focus on “internationally mobile” students who are enrolled in a tertiary degree and will generally stay in their host country for more than one year.

According to US International Education Exchange (IIE) Open Doors Data, in 2021/22, 188,753 US students were studying abroad for academic credit for periods ranging from 8 weeks to up to one calendar year. Italy (30,610 US students), the UK (27,503 US students) Spain (25,348 US students) and France (14,397 US students) were the top destinations for US outbound students in 2021/22.  The IEE data separately indicates that there were an additional 81,699 US students seeking full degrees abroad.

According to the most recent HESA data, the UK, as the most popular English-speaking destination for students from the US, hosted 22,990 US students in 2021/22, making the US the UK’s fifth-largest source market by pure headcount, if not by value, behind China, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Duration of Stay

The US outbound market differs from many others in that it is much more common for students from the US to study abroad for a short period (e.g. 8 weeks) during the academic year or during summer, rather than seek a full degree abroad.  Of the 188,753 US students studying abroad in 2021/22, 16% studied abroad for 8 weeks or less during the academic year, 49% studied abroad for 8 weeks or less during the summer, 33% studied abroad for a semester, and just 3% studied abroad for an academic year or calendar year.

Changing patterns of U.S. outbound mobility

Outbound study-abroad student numbers have recovered significantly post-pandemic. However, current figures are still significantly lower than the figures for 2018/19, when there were 347,099 US students studying abroad. The US outbound market is expected to recover further during 2024.

Push factors

While the US is home to some of the most prestigious universities in the world, push factors for study abroad include high tuition fees, a mismatch between the skills and knowledge that US students graduate from university with and the skills needed by employers, and an increasing awareness of the importance of global engagement.

Priorities for students from the US

Search priorities

Data from the latest Global Student Living Index (2023 Q4) shows that when searching for accommodation students from the US have similar priorities to other students. However, travel time to place of study (80% vs 76%), availability of an ensuite (63% vs 60%) and travel time to amenities (50% vs 45%) are more important for students from the US than the broader international student cohort. 

Room type

When it comes to room type, students from the US are significantly less likely (26%) to be in a studio room than other international students (36%), and more likely to be in a private bedroom in a shared apartment (65% vs 59%) or a shared bedroom in a shared apartment than other international students (9% vs 4%).

Search resources

Students from the US are much more likely than the broader international student population to turn to university websites (79% vs 60%), general web searches (45% vs 34%), and internet forums (19% vs 10%). US students are less likely than the broader international student cohort to use an educational agent or consultant to help them in their search for accommodation (3% vs 14%).


US students are significantly more likely to book directly with the university housing or accommodation office than other international students (67% vs 34%) and much less likely (12%) than international students in general (24%) to book their accommodation via an online student accommodation listings site.