Category Archives: International Higher Education

Brexit Update #3 – Clarity? It depends what you mean by equal!

inouteureferendum

Today an historic agreement was reached to enable the UK to move to the second phase of its talks on leaving the European Union. The internal consistency of the agreement is debatable so there will inevitably be huge recriminations from all sides in the coming months about what it all means. However, it is satisfying to see Jean- Claude Juncker say that: “We have made sure that their rights will remain the same after the UK has left the European Union. This is in particular the case for: EU citizens’ right to live, work and study.”

How does this affect British students in Europe or thinking about going there? Well, on the one hand it does provide some clarity: UK Students will still be allowed to study elsewhere in Europe. However, there was never really any doubt that this would be the case. It does also guarantee equal treatment in terms of access to healthcare, social benefits and education.

The biggest issue is whether or not EU and UK citizens will still be considered exactly the same in 28 countries or whether they should be treated reciprocally. At the moment, EU citizens studying in the UK pay the same fees as UK students and are able to access finance for their tuition fees (there is no right to living cost support unless students meet a residency requirement). It is possible that EU students might be asked to pay full international fees in the future and have their access to finance removed. If this does happen, then equal treatment for British students in other EU member states would be achieved by increasing the fees paid by British students in any member that has variable fees for international students.

I doubt that increasing fees in the way I have outlined above is the intention of either side in the Brexit negotiations. However, such an understanding does not take into consideration the fact that the UK (or England at least) has already “left” the EU in the way that students are expected to fund their education.

The removal of direct subsidies for nearly all Bachelors students in England has not been emulated in any other EU member state. Those countries that do levy fees for their domestic students do so on the basis that it is a contribution towards the cost of education rather than a price tag that supposedly reflects the full cost of their studies. In recent years, British students have been able to benefit from tuition fee subsidies in other EU member states and in many cases, this has meant that they have not paid fees at all. The Danish and Dutch governments, in particular, have been very clear that British students are welcome, particularly if they stay on to work after they graduate. This subsidy has not been reciprocated by the English government. Wouldn’t true equality require that this be removed elsewhere in the EU in future? Under EU law that would not be possible while the UK remains a member state but who knows what lies around the next corner?

I am quietly confident that British students will be able to continue going to European universities with nothing to worry about. However, I know better than to say this will definitely be the case. Let’s see where we are in Update #4…

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Housing at Dutch Universities

Amsterdam photo

In the last ten years, the number of international students attending Dutch universities for their Bachelor’s or Master’s degree has grown from roughly 40,000 to 80,000. If we include students on exchange or foundation year students, the total number of international students in 2016 reached 112,000, an all-time high for Dutch universities. As a consequence of this success, finding accommodation in some Dutch cities has become noticeably harder. While it is certainly true that domestic student numbers have declined slightly, and the proportion of them living at home while studying has grown, there is considerable pressure on accommodation that is suitable for international students.

In this same time period, the number of British students undertaking a full degree at Dutch universities has grown from around 50 to over 3,000 and continues to grow at around 20% per year. Naturally, there are more British students who will be affected by potential housing shortages. Some recent headlines have revolved around international students staying at a campsite in Utrecht or at a recently reopened refugee centre in Groningen. It is these two cities, along with Amsterdam, that appear to be experiencing the greatest difficulty accommodating their international students.

There are plans in place to address this shortfall and it is a matter that has reached the attention of the Dutch government. However, changing the supply of housing from one year to the next is not going to be particularly easy. We would not wish to see any British student discouraged from attending a Dutch university for this reason alone and we don’t think that they should be. Finding suitable accommodation in major university cities in the United Kingdom can also be nightmarish if you don’t follow the instructions that universities provide.

We would encourage all first-year students to plan their accommodation in good time, ideally around April to May prior to travelling to the Netherlands. Contact the university housing office and make sure that you are clear about the process involved in guaranteeing a room. Naturally, this might be difficult for those students who are not prepared to make a firm commitment until their A’ level results are announced but we would certainly advise taking steps to find a room in order to avoid any complications upon arrival. The Dutch student housing market can be difficult to navigate and there are risks from unscrupulous landlords, although nothing that should frighten anyone who has negotiated with their UK equivalents. The only specific difference is that contracts will be in Dutch and it is never wise to sign such an agreement without knowing what it contains. If a university housing office can remove this uncertainty, it is worth paying for its help.

We will be monitoring this situation over the coming months to see how it develops. We will also post any useful links on the accommodation page of the Study in Holland website.

 

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Brexit Update #2: Extended transition period creates opportunity for British students

I am still not entirely sure why Florence was chosen for Theresa May’s speech last week. Is it her vision that Europe should return to a medieval landscape of competing city states? Proof that there is life after being the financial centre of the universe? Or maybe she has always been a fan of Salvatore Ferragamo and it is the only positive association she can make with “foreign”?

While there was still very little in the way of a concrete action plan for departing the European Union, it does appear that reality has intervened to a certain extent. This will be complicated, it will be unprecedented, and the idea that the UK had a crack team of super-bureaucrats just waiting to take back control and exploit the opportunities presented by Brexit has now been fully exposed as nonsense, although their leadership is even more suspect. Two years was never going to work as a time frame and the UK has asked for a transition period of an additional two years, taking us through to spring 2021.

Presumably the European Union would have to agree to this extension. Bearing in mind that Article 50 was triggered in a completely reckless fashion I don’t think this should be taken for granted. However, it is true that avoiding a cliff edge is in everyone’s best interests and no deal being better than a bad deal is just one of those things our politicians say but don’t mean.

The request for an extension does absolutely nothing for anyone looking for longer term certainty on the future of the UK and the European Union. However, it does create a window of opportunity for students who are about to go to university. With a March 2019 departure date, students starting at an EU university in September 2018 could very well be liable for non-EU fees from the second year of their studies. If the departure is delayed by two years, because the existing status quo will be maintained during this period, then fees would not increase until spring 2021 at the earliest. Students commencing a three-year degree in 2018 are likely to have graduated before any higher fee regime comes into effect. Those students looking to study in Holland can be cautiously optimistic in my opinion.

Theresa May did also mention that the two-year transition period could be shortened if quicker progress is made thus creating an additional element of uncertainty. I would not bet on such an eventuality.

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It’s the most manic time of the year – #clearing 2017. How to find out what is available abroad if you miss out on a place in the UK.

15th August Update: It has been brought to our attention that some of the links in our recent email newsletter are not working as they should be. You can download the content here:

With A’ level results day just ahead of us now is the time of year when we publish a list of vacancies at international universities. This year there are fewer such opportunities, largely because the best options don’t need to recruit UK students at the last minute. This is in marked contrast to the situation in this country and we know full well that you will probably be heartily sick of university marketing by the end of next week.

British universities are falling over themselves to recruit students during clearing this year so the pressure to go abroad is no longer there except in traditionally tough subjects such as medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine. We are aware of some offers available for UK students of these subjects and we will probably be able to help you if you have BBB or better in your A’ levels. Below this, it will be a struggle for the universities we represent.

You can download the list of 2017 #clearing opportunities here: Clearing Courses 2017 100817

We will be in the office all day on Thursday and we expect the phone to be very busy. Please feel free to call us on 020 8782 1164 but do also send us an email if you can’t get through. We will try to get back to anyone looking for 2017 admissions on the same day.

If you are looking for 2018 admissions, please be patient as we will have more urgent enquiries to take care of before we can think about next year. We would still be delighted to hear from you although it might not be possible to speak on results day itself.

 

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Brexit Update: things we have learned about our future outside the European Union.

It might seem a little perverse to choose the day before the general election to write an update on the implications of Brexit on British outbound student mobility. However, I think it is reasonably safe to assume that there will be no change in the direction of travel as a result of tomorrow’s vote. It would be nice to think there might be a change in tone but that is probably also too much to ask.

Since our last post on the subject, we have been trying to find out if our initial assessment might not have been too gloomy. It probably wasn’t but I think we can see some areas of encouragement for British students at both the EU and the national level.

In its list of demands for Phase One of the Brexit negotiations, the European Parliament laid down its so-called red lines for the negotiations. We missed it at the time but following a webinar today with the European University Association, it appears that discussion on the rights of EU nationals in the UK (as well as UK nationals in the rest of the European Union) does not only extend to those who are currently abroad. It is the parliament’s assertion that anyone born before the exit date (ie. most likely 1st April 2019 at the earliest) should be guaranteed the rights of EU membership for the rest of their lives. If this is correct, it means that anyone British currently alive, or soon to be born, should be able to access European higher education on the same basis as any other EU citizen. This could potentially protect British students from any change of status midway through their studies.

Obviously, this is a starting point in the negotiation no matter that it might be described as a red line. If this proposal were to be accepted it would more or less mean that the limit on free movement wouldn’t come into effect for decades yet. This is hardly going to appeal to the huge majority of leave voters who cannot articulate a reason for Brexit’s necessity beyond “taking back control” of British borders. Still, it is not as if the other objectives of Brexit can be achieved either, being as they are largely the fault/responsibility of domestic politics.

At a national level, we have been able to establish that there is one country where fees for British students will be the same whatever the outcome of the Brexit process. And those fees will be zero. German universities do not charge fees for international students no matter where they come from, although this might change in certain Bundeslaender. I believe Baden-Wuerttemburg might be considering introducing international fees but we have been advised that this will not be happening any time soon in Bavaria, for example.

There aren’t many Bachelor’s degrees taught in English at German universities and those that are tend to be in strategically important STEM subjects. Germany is keen that its international students stick around after graduation – this sentence will make improbable reading to anyone following UK discussions about immigration. Although entry requirements can be quite hard to meet with A’ levels, there are now some very good options available at universities such as the Technical University of Munich and Deggendorf University of Applied Sciences.

 

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Meet us in Newcastle upon Tyne later this month!

newcastle-study-abroad-event-jan-2017-facebook

We are hosting an open evening for students interested in studying abroad in the next few years.

If you are in the north east of England and would like to learn more, please register for our event online.

We will be joined by representatives of BI Norwegian Business School who will be able to share the experience of their international students.

If you have any questions at all about how to study abroad, this would be an excellent chance for you to get answers. If you are only just starting out on the journey and trying to decide whether this might be something for you, then you are also more than welcome to attend. The event has almost reached capacity so if you are interested in coming along, we advise you to sign up right away.

 

 

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A’ Level Results Day 2016 – What options are there at international universities in clearing?

Hot Air Balloons

Clearing Courses 2016 140816

Every year we publish a list of courses abroad that are taught in English and might be suitable for British students. While there are always some issues that mean last-minute applications are complicated, if you are willing to move quickly you might very well be able to line up a good place at an international university without too much difficulty.

We have found 100 courses that still have vacancies in 2016. While there are likely to be lots of choices during #clearing in the UK this year, we believe some of these will be worth a look for you.

If you require any assistance, please feel free to contact us on info@astarfuture.co.uk or 020 8782 1163.

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Now that Brexit is here, what does it mean for British students in Europe?

born in eu

Before I go into the likely implications for British students and international universities I would like to make a personal observation that will also serve to highlight the biggest immediate concern.

I was there at the birth of the single market in 1993. Overnight I was able to live and work without restriction, without having to prove any particular skill or talent, a test I most certainly would have failed. I worked on a zero-hours contract, experienced financial and housing difficulties beyond anything I have ever encountered elsewhere but eventually achieved a certain stability and a level of integration. I never once had the power to deprive anyone else of a job or a home and, if benefits were available to me, it was certainly easier to get a job than try to claim. I was told to fuck off back to my own country, I was told ‘we like you but it’s all those others from the east we don’t want’. On one unforgettable occasion I was chased through the streets of Friedrichshain by a bunch of neo-Nazis. What all these things have in common is racism. You could argue whether they are points on a continuum but when it comes down it, it is just racism and must be given no quarter. The idea that those who voted to remain don’t “get” the anxieties of those who voted to leave is nonsense; fear of foreigners is one of our basest human instincts. Surrendering to it, as many if not all who voted leave did last week, is beneath contempt. We have already seen a worrying rise in racially motivated hate crimes and it is essential to be vigilant. This might seem like a hysterical overreaction and let’s hope it remains that way. I don’t hold out much hope though, particularly as the vote leavers haven’t yet realized they will not get what they want when it comes to immigration.

Freedom of movement made me who I am. I cannot see any other way that I could have gained the knowledge and experience I needed to find my true calling in life (not something I say lightly) without the rights granted to me by the European Union. This is a right that is worth defending for all Europeans. Within a single market, the rights of one must be the rights of all. I cannot support its removal at the behest of those who somehow imagine the world owes them a living without going out to look for it.

So, what happens next for British students? Well, this rather depends on how the negotiations go. I think at this stage we have to accept that the UK will actually leave the European Union. Maybe there will be a pause to reconsider when it becomes abundantly clear that the best result we can achieve will be to remain on exactly the same terms we currently enjoy but I am not hopeful. I think we can rule out a better arrangement for either the UK or EU than the status quo, however. Our negotiating team will likely consist of the same incompetents who got us into this mess.

Assuming negotiations to leave do actually start at some point, there will be a window of probably two years until they are completed, although it seems that this could happen quicker or might take a lot longer. This isn’t a process that has been attempted in the past.

Nothing will change for UK students at European universities until our removal actually occurs. On the day this happens, the consequences will either be drastic or unnoticeable. I can’t really foresee any middle point.

In the event that our post-Brexit solution is to join the European Economic Area, there will be no change as the same rules will apply regarding student finance and tuition fees. If this is not the final outcome, and bearing in mind it will require freedom of movement so it quite probably won’t be, then the consequences will be different.

For students at private universities in Europe there is still unlikely to be any noticeable change, at least in terms of finance. As most students at these universities are already paying tuition fees that are not dependent on their EU citizenship it is probable that they will not be affected at all. However, if they are in receipt of scholarships or means-testing based on their EU passport, this could be a risk, theoretically. Private universities will undoubtedly have greater scope for discretion when dealing with individuals caught up in this madness. There may be a requirement for student visas in the future, there may be restrictions on students being able to work but I imagine this will vary from country to country.

The bigger risk is for students at public universities in Europe because they are likely to benefit from subsidies or funding arrangements in the countries that are hosting them, even if they are not aware of this fact. The willingness of those countries’ governments to continue this support after we leave the European Union is likely to be close to zero if it is not reciprocated by the UK government, which it almost certainly won’t be if we don’t agree to all the terms of the single market. This will see tuition fees go up overnight for British students from the current level offered to EU students to the international tuition fees all other students pay. This could be a sizeable increase in the Netherlands or Denmark, for example.

In a previous blog post on this subject, I wondered whether anyone would actually spend any time considering the fate of British students. Given that approximately 75% of 18-25 year-olds voted remain, the result could be interpreted as a betrayal of British youth. Many of them have been quick to cite their threatened access to cheaper higher education as a major problem. Knowing as I do just how few of them were likely to have gone abroad under any circumstances, this does somewhat smack of protesting a bit too much. It seems, however, that I might have been worrying for nothing. We are less than a week into this whole fiasco and already the Italian PM, Matteo Renzi has come up with a suggestion to assist British students. An interesting idea but not without legal difficulties, not to mention being grossly unfair to other non-EU students. If this were to become a permanent part of the post-Brexit higher education landscape, then it is hard to see any circumstances under which a British student could be advised to stay at home. I suspect this might be seen as a solution to the rather more immediate problem of what do with students who will experience this cataclysm midway through their degree.

One question we really cannot answer: For those students with EU nationality currently in the UK (not dual citizens), if they leave to go to university will they be allowed back in afterwards? Any help with this one would be much appreciated.

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Alternative ways to get a degree

Last week we appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Money Box programme to discuss alternative ways of funding a degree. While we were invited to speak about possibilities for British students abroad, other guests focussed on higher apprenticeships and the latest information on the cost of studying in England.

You can download the entire broadcast here.

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How to get a scholarship at a European university?

BI campus

The forthcoming EU referendum has forced us to focus our minds on the financial realities that British students might face in the not so distant future. While some of the best benefits for British students might disappear if we no longer enjoy the same rights as natives in 27 other countries, there will be some universities where the financial reality is altered very little whether we remain or leave.

Many private universities offer some form of financial aid to their international students. While there might be some differences in the amounts available, and the reasoning behind the awards, if we stay in or vote to leave, financial support of some kind or other ought to be available to any student who meets the relevant criteria.

Scholarships are largely used by universities to attract the best possible talent. It therefore stands to reason that most will be offered only to those students who are high achievers. Within Europe, there is little in the way of scholarships for gifted athletes or global citizens, for example.

Some universities will take a student’s personal circumstances into consideration when setting fees but this may change should we leave the European Union. Public and private universities often offer means-tested support to their domestic students but we are not aware of any who extend this principle when they are not obliged to by EU law.

Where to look for scholarships and where not?

Private universities in Europe are the only ones likely to offer scholarships. Given the relatively low, or non-existent, tuition fees charged by public universities in most members of the European Union, there is little or no money available for scholarships for British students at such institutions. Again, this may change if we leave the EU as fees will almost certainly increase for British students. However, in some countries, this won’t make much of a difference as all students from all countries are charged the same amount.

It is worth pointing out that British students at European public universities are unlikely to get a scholarship for another very important reason; their education is already heavily subsidised. It is not possible for a Dutch university to teach anyone for the €1,984 per year they will charge EU students in 2016. Their government makes a contribution to the education of every EU national. This varies by subject but is usually at least €8,000 per student.

Another factor to consider is that not all scholarships are awarded for the entire length of a degree or, if they are, they may be provided at variable rates. This will typically incentivise the first or final year of study at a greater rate than others. Almost all scholarships will come with a performance-related target that students will need to meet in order to continue to benefit. This will most often be expressed in the form of a required grade point average (GPA).

It is also common to find that scholarships may only be available for certain degree programmes and not for every course. For example, scholarships for professional degrees are never awarded, even at universities that might make these available for degrees in other disciplines. It may not be palatable to say this but such students are cash cows in the eyes of their universities; universities offering courses in these subjects in English are doing so largely as a means of generating revenue and British students are, by global standards, wealthy. Also, with the anticipated earning potential of graduates in professional degrees being so much higher than for students in other subjects, many universities feel that it is not necessary to subsidise their education. Students of medicine and dentistry abroad can access financial support only when it is available to all EU nationals by right. This can take the form of student loans in Bulgaria, means-tested fees in Italy but, more often than not, means that no financial assistance at all will be available. Of course, if we leave the EU even these limited options could dry up.

What impact will scholarships have on how much British students pay?

While financial aid at European universities can have a noticeable impact on the overall cost of higher education it does not automatically make it cheaper than studying in England. In the following table we have tried to give an indication of the likely annual cost of a degree at seven European universities.

We have converted the final costs in GB£ on an annual basis assuming a 10-month academic year. This does not take into account the fact that some of the degrees take four years to complete rather than three.

Given that the anticipated cost of a year at an English university for many British students is now around £21,000 according to the National Union of Students, at first glance many of these opportunities represent excellent value for money. Of course, it is vitally important to remember that Student Finance England support is not available for either tuition fees or living costs. Students will have to find the remaining cost of their education from alternative sources.

In the following table, we have tried to indicate merit-based or need-based financial aid opportunities but there are certain examples which combine an element of both. Further research will obviously be required but we believe that British students of a suitable ability are likely to find some excellent opportunities at the universities mentioned. For further information on the degree programmes that these universities offer in English please visit www.astarfuture.co.uk.

Because wordpress free version doesn’t really display tables properly, you can also download this from our website.

scholarship table

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