The scramble for places has reached such a level that students are now struggling find places to sit the traditional US higher education entrance exam, it has emerged.
Some 28 test centres in Britain run the SAT – a standard reasoning test used by many US colleges to dictate entry – and most have reported record demand.
The number of students taking the test in this country has increased by a third over the last two years and some students are now being forced to travel to mainland Europe to sit exams.
Almost 9,000 British undergraduates and postgraduates studied in the US last year and the number is expected to soar in 2012.
The disclosure comes as the cost of a degree rises from £3,375 to a maximum of £9,000 for students starting courses next year.
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It is feared that the move is fuelling an exodus towards universities in Europe and America where fees are lower or students are often eligible for generous scholarships.
Foreign universities are also targeting British students.
Last week, almost 130 American universities – including many top Ivy League institutions – were represented at a major US college recruitment fair in London.
This Saturday, around 1,500 students will attend the Student World Fair which is being billed as a showroom for 40 institutions from Europe, the United States, Australia, Hong Kong, Jamaica, New Zealand and Canada.
Jemma Davies, of MJD Consultancy, which is staging the exhibition, said a number of factors including fee rises and increasing globalisation combined to “to make the prospect of studying abroad that much more attractive”.
“At the same time, foreign universities have been alerted to the prospect of attracting UK students, and are looking to actively market to them,” she said.
America is still seen as one of the most sought-after destinations for British students.
Most institutions require students to take either the SAT or the alternative ACT exam.
The most competitive institutions ask for the main SAT aptitude paper plus two or three subject-specific exams.
In the current academic year, British tests are staged on October 1, November 5 or December 3, with later exams in January, May or June.
But many test centres accredited by The College Board, which administers the test, have reported record demand. All places were taken in London and the south-east for the October exam and many test centres are already full for November.
Janette Wallis, a senior editor of The Good Schools Guide, said: “It’s not rocket science to have foreseen that when tuition fees climbed to £9000, interest in university abroad would skyrocket. It’s not just the US – we’re getting more inquiries about universities in Europe and farther afield like China and Australia.”
Jill Hurst, who tutors British students preparing for the American test, said: “We couldn’t find spaces in any of the London centres for the October test.
“We ended up having to send kids to centres miles away, for example down in Dorset, and even those spots were going fast.
“My concern is that many UK students may be deciding to look at US schools only now – post A-level results – when testing seats are hard to find. They should start the process about 18 months before entrance.”