Study: Top TV Shows That Inspired Students in 2022This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
It’s an exciting time of year for students; exploring a new city, meeting new people, registering for classes, and settling into a new way of life. Whether it’s an hour away or the other side of the country, this is often the first time students are away from home for an extended period of time, laying their own path.
But what exactly inspires students to choose their degree? And does pop culture have a part to play?
As students across both the US and the UK take their first steps into higher education, we were curious to answer these questions…
We discovered the most popular degrees in both countries, and surveyed 500 students studying each degree category; 5,000 British and 5,000 American students in total.
|United States1||United Kingdom2|
|Medicine & Healthcare||Natural Sciences|
|Social Sciences||Engineering & Technology|
|Law & Criminology||Sports Science|
|Visual & Performing Arts||Media & Communication|
|Computer & Information Services||Arts|
|Education||Hospitality & Tourism|
Our aim was to discover the factors that go into selecting a degree subject, and students’ habits when it comes to watching television series, as well as the TV shows that had the biggest impact on their choice of degree, selected from a predetermined list of popular series.
We asked students in both countries whether their degree choice had been inspired by television shows. In the US, 49% of respondents said they had been ‘somewhat’ or ‘heavily’ influenced by TV, with UK students following at 43%.
We also asked students how many hours they spend watching television shows per week.
UK students admitted to spending between 20-30 hours watching TV or streaming shows every week, with 11% stating they spend upwards of 30 hours in front of the television – equivalent to five days every month.
In comparison, two fifths (40%) of US freshmen said they spend between 20-30 hours watching television each week, and 18% said they spend 30+ hours in front of their TV screen – more than 60% more than their UK counterparts.
Now for the big question: which television shows have had the biggest influence on students’ degree choices this year?
|United States||United Kingdom|
|Grey’s Anatomy – 36%||The Apprentice – 38%|
|The Good Doctor – 29%||24 Hours in A&E – 35%|
|Suits – 28%||Blue Planet II – 26%|
|Shark Tank – 24%||Grand Designs – 24%|
|Silicon Valley – 23%||Call the Midwife – 23%|
|Mindhunter – 23%||Suits – 20%|
|Mr Robot – 21%||Dragon’s Den – 19%|
|World of Dance – 21%||Line of Duty – 19%|
|True Detective – 19%||Planet Earth II – 18%|
|The Big Bang Theory – 12%||The Bold Type – 17%|
Medical drama Grey’s Anatomy had the biggest influence on freshmen in the US, with over a third (36%) of those studying medicine citing the series as having influenced their choice of degree – the highest percentage of votes for all students surveyed in the United States.
However, British television series The Apprentice had the biggest influence on students overall, with 38% of UK respondents studying business citing the reality series as having influenced their degree.
The Apprentice was closely followed by medical docuseries 24 Hours in A&E, which amassed the second highest score in the UK (35% of students studying medicine). The second installment of David Attenborough’s wildlife series, Blue Planet II, was revealed as the third most influential television show in the UK, with more than a quarter (26%) of the votes from British natural sciences students.
In the US, The Good Doctor followed Grey’s Anatomy at 29% (16% of students studying medicine and 13% studying psychology), with award-winning legal drama Suits revealed as America’s third most influential television show (28%).
When asked about their favorite genre of TV series, more than half (56%) of UK students selected drama, followed by comedy (53%), sci-fi (47%) and docuseries (35%). In the US, drama was also the standout genre of choice (34%), with true crime taking the second spot (17%) and docuseries in third (11%).
A further 93% of British students said that they watch the majority of their favorite television programmes via a streaming service such as Disney +, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, compared to 89% in the United States.
Disney is currently the world’s biggest streaming service3, with 221.1 million subscribers across Disney+, Hulu and ESPN Plus. In comparison, Netflix has 220.7 million subscribers.
We also asked students about other factors that have influenced their choice of degree.
Almost two thirds of American students (61%) listed ‘passion for/interest in the subject’ as one of the driving factors behind their subject choice, followed by ‘opinions of friends & family’ (47%). ‘Employability after college’ made up the top three choices (45%).
In the UK, the top three factors were also employability (67%), a passion for or interest in their chosen subject (63%), and the opinions of their friends and family (54%).