Why British students are heading to America for an elite education

Phil Mooney, a 25-year-old banker from Belfast, turned down a place to study German at Oxford to go to Princeton. He wanted to “replicate the adventure” of his gap year, and Princeton also offered diversity: while majoring in German and politics, he also took classes in statistics, Middle Eastern history, and still-life painting. “American college gives you a much broader view of the world,” he says. 

Another draw is the tight-knit college community. “Princeton has an extremely strong network,” says Mooney. “My life would have been much easier if I stayed at home: you can keep close to family and close to friends, and you are less likely to lose love over long distance.

But you never explore, never push your own limits, and you’re emptier if you stay.” There is a risk all parents take when their children choose to study abroad, however – they may not return. “It’s the first thing mothers ask,” says Fernand. “‘Are you worried he’ll settle in America?’ Not at all. Why would I be that selfish?”  I worry too, but having seen so many of my husband’s Oxbridge friends transferred to New York, Singapore and Hong Kong for jobs, I think this new “cognitive elite” of globally educated students will ultimately have the upper hand.

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