Monday 09 May 2016



  • British Council Survey reveals more than half (60%) of 16-year-olds in Northern Ireland would consider working abroad
  • Girls in Northern Ireland more likely than boys to consider studying abroad
  • Those in rural parts of Northern Ireland less likely to consider leaving than those from cities or suburbs
  • Same-sex attracted 16-year-olds more likely to think about going abroad for work/study or apprenticeships than their opposite-sex attracted counterparts
  • Northern Ireland’s 16-year-olds think learning an additional language would be beneficial for their future, with 65% feeling an additional language would be useful for travel and leisure



More than half of 16-year-olds in Northern Ireland would consider working abroad in the future, new research has revealed.

The survey found that over 60% of respondents said they would consider working abroad, with over half considering studying abroad (57%) and over four in ten contemplating going abroad for an apprenticeship or internship.

Interestingly, females are more likely than males to consider studying abroad (62% compared to 49%), while those in more rural parts of Northern Ireland are less likely to consider leaving the UK for study, apprenticeship, or work than those from cities or city suburbs.

The survey however showed that same-sex attracted 16-year-olds are much more likely than their opposite-sex attracted counterparts to say that they considered studying, working or doing an apprenticeship outside the UK. Seventy-five percent of same-sex attracted 16-year-olds would considering studying abroad, compared to 56% of opposite-sex attracted, while 73% of same-sex attracted  would think about working abroad, compared to 62% of opposite-sex attracted.

The research also found most 16-year-olds in Northern Ireland viewed learning an additional language as beneficial for their future. Almost two thirds (65%) of respondents felt an additional language would be useful for travel and leisure, about half (54%)  felt this would be useful for working abroad, while one third thought an additional language would be useful for studying. 

The research, carried out by ARK through their annual Young Life and Times (YLT) survey, involved 1,156 young people and was commissioned by British Council Northern Ireland as a way to gauge 16-year-olds attitudes to internalisation and language learning.  

The survey was complemented by a more in depth series of focus groups of twenty 16-year-olds carried out by researchers at ARK. All of those sampled were born in the new millennium and post the Belfast Agreement, and voiced their opinion on topics such as cultural life in Northern Ireland, limitations of classroom learning and aspirations to study, live and work abroad. This cumulated in a short film capturing the views of twenty 16 year olds, which can be viewed here:

Commenting on the survey, Jonathan Stewart, Deputy Director, British Council Northern Ireland, said: “The results reflect the need to better equip our young people to work globally.  With the majority of 16-year-olds from Northern Ireland intending to go abroad in the future, better knowledge and practical information on opportunities available to them should be made available to young people post-16.  

“The challenge now is to come up with ways to satisfy this desire to explore the world. The British Council’s Study Work Create campaign provides a gateway to thousands of funded international opportunities and expert advice about overseas experiences – but we want to offer access to even more opportunities through our schools and youth organisations.”

The results also show that there is a need to provide more opportunities for young people to acquire language skills.

Mr Stewart said: “Young people really recognise the value of language learning, especially for use for travel and leisure reasons. However, there are barriers to learning languages post age 16. Parents, schools and businesses can all play their part in encouraging our young people to study languages at school and to ensure that links between language learning and career opportunities are clearly made."

Also speaking about the findings was Dr Dirk Schubotz, YLT Director.

He said: “These study findings are interesting and relate well to previous survey research in which we asked 16-year olds whether they intended to leave Northern Ireland and whether they thought they would come back. The British Council support provided us with an opportunity to explore young people’s appetite for international experiences and their desire to learn other languages for this in much more detail.”

The results reinforce the findings of the British Council 2015 report, A World of Experience, which highlighted the importance of international experience for the development of skills and as a way to shape future career paths. The report shows that people who have ‘deeper international experience’ are more likely to be involved in innovation in their workplace. It also indicates that people with multiple international experiences were encouraged by their first international experience to actively look for further study-, travel- or work-related opportunities abroad, with those whose initial international experience was at school age being the most inspired to look for further opportunities.

The Ark YLT Survey will be officially launched on May 11, alongside a screening of the Twenty 16year olds  video.  For more information visit

The video can also be accessed here:

Dr Sirk Schubotz has also written a blog piece about the findings

More information on this study and the full technical report can be accessed here


to find out more about British Council Northern Ireland visit or for more information on opportunities available for post-16 year-olds visit or email

Notes to Editor

For further information, please contact:

Claire McAuley T +44 (0) 28 9019 2224 | M +44 (0) 7856524504 Twitter: @BCouncil_NI,  or Facebook


About ARK:

A joint resource between the two Northern Ireland universities, ARK was established in 2000. ARK has a single goal: to make social science information on Northern Ireland available to the widest possible audience.

Researchers, policymakers, journalists, community and other voluntary groups, schoolchildren and their teachers are all users of ARK – in fact anyone with an interest in social issues in Northern Ireland can make use of this resource.Knowledge-based policy is key to the success of Northern Ireland’s devolved legislative assembly. ARK seeks to build both a solid infrastructure and increased capacity as social policy issues have come under fresh scrutiny across all areas, a lobbying culture has emerged and with it the opportunity to stimulate public debate on these issues.

More information can be found here:


About the British Council

the British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We work in over 100 countries worldwide to build engagement and trust for the UK through the exchange of knowledge and ideas between people. We work in the arts, education, English, science, sport and governance and last year we engaged face to face with 18.4 million people and reached 652 million. We are a non-political organisation which operates at arm’s length from government. Our total turnover in 2009/10 was £705 million, of which our grant-in-aid from the British government was £211 million. For every £1 of government grant we receive, we earn £2.50 from other sources. For more information, please visit:, on Facebook  or follow us on Twitter: @BCouncil_NI