Category Archives: International Higher Education

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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What does “Brexit” mean for British students who are studying in Europe or are thinking of doing so?

inouteureferendum

While I cannot claim any certain knowledge about what will happen should we choose to leave the European Union, this hardly makes me unique. However, I can speculate as well as the next person and when it comes to the impact on British students at European universities I think I can at least have a good shot at trying to assess the key issues. Should we leave the EU, British students will go from being natives in 28 countries to foreigners in 27 (possibly 26 – I suppose Ireland might be different) and this will inevitably have an impact on some of the advantages they currently enjoy.

There are three main issues that would be likely to be affected by “Brexit”: money, recognition and residency. While it is far too early to draw any conclusions about residency and the requirement to get a student visa to study elsewhere in the European Union, I think we can make some assertions relating to the other two.

  1. Recognition: Currently all degrees from EU universities are recognized as being equal. This is not actually a result of EU membership as such. It depends on participation in the Bologna Process where standards across the European Higher Education Area are notionally harmonized. While there is no legal requirement for all countries to recognize each other’s degrees, within the EU this is currently the case. There are some professional qualifications where national study has always been a vital component (eg. law) and therefore recognition is not always as straightforward in these fields. If we leave the European Union I suppose it is possible that we could stop recognizing degrees from other member states but I doubt there is much political will to do so. After all, a degree from an international university will not automatically become inferior to a British one just because of our membership status. It is possible that the UK might stop recognizing degrees from EU universities but I would regard this as a remote possibility unless there is clear evidence of unsuitability. If a foreign-trained doctor were to be associated with some future disaster, then this might have consequences but I doubt anyone is actively anticipating this outcome.
  2. Money: This is arguably a lot more complicated. Many of the financial advantages British students enjoy elsewhere in the EU will disappear if we leave. In some countries, eg. Germany or Spain, this will actually make no difference because international students pay the same fees at public universities and there is no access to local student finance for Brits anyway. Where there is a difference (Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden etc.) it is extremely likely that students will notice a change in fees if their EU membership status were to change. There is absolutely no reason to think that students who are currently in the system will be excused any increase if or when it comes into effect. While countries are free to discriminate between nationals of non-EU countries, I cannot see any reason why they would feel obliged to offer more generous terms to British students than to a student from, say, South Africa. Students at private universities would be unlikely to see any change to their current fees as these are largely the same for students of all nationalities, perhaps a little cheaper but not substantially.

It is perhaps worthwhile looking at the likely financial impact on students in the Netherlands in a little more detail as these are likely to be the ones most affected by “Brexit”. Currently, British students pay the institutional tuition fee of €1,984 per year (2016/17) for most courses. They are automatically entitled to a loan for these fees from the Dutch government because it is illegal to discriminate between EU citizens. If we leave the EU, access to this loan (as well as additional loans for maintenance costs available in certain circumstances) will cease. There is no student funding automatically available to non-EU nationals. Brits will be able to apply for scholarships but that is it. Fees will also increase but it is difficult to give a clear answer by how much because tuition is variable depending on subject and university. I would suggest that an annual fee of around €8,000 for arts and humanities, €12,000 for sciences and engineering, €35,000 for medicine, would be a good benchmark figure. So, it is possible that a student on an arts degree could see fees increase by around 300% and medicine could be around 17 times more expensive. These fees would probably increase overnight once transitional negotations have been completed; current students and those starting in 2016 would possibly not be affected but change would definitely occur at some point in the future. We are not talking about a change in student fees here but a change in nationality status. Universities may not feel under any obligation to help out British students and even if they do, it might be financially impossible for them to delay the introduction of the new fees. Currently, they receive a contribution from the government per EU-student which is more-or-less equivalent to the difference in fees outlined above. For a Dutch university to continue teaching a Brit at the lower level, they would be saying that they are prepared to make up this shortfall from their own resources. I doubt there is a strategic case for them to do so. Would the British government be prepared to step in to make up the shortfall?

It is also a possibility that Britain’s destiny after leaving the EU is to join the European Economic Area (EEA). If that is the case then fees would remain at their current low level (not sure about access to financial assistance though). However, given that one of the key requirements of membership of the EEA is free movement of people, I cannot see how this is the desired outcome of the Brexiteers. If we leave, I doubt anyone will be fighting the corner of mobile British students in the lengthy negotiations that would surely follow.

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England is the most expensive place to be an undergraduate student

The OECD’s report into education has revealed what we have always known to be true: the introduction of £9,000pa tuition fees makes England the most expensive place on average to get a bachelor’s degree in the OECD nations.

This might seem ridiculous particularly bearing in mind US tuition fees but there are two important points to consider that mean the OECD is absolutely correct:

  1. Fees for international students are usually higher. This means that an English student going to the USA, Canada or Australia is likely to pay much more than £9k a year but domestic students in these countries usually pay considerably less.
  2. In countries where there are tuition fees, these are usually variable. English tuition fees are also technically variable but this distinction has been lost in practice on both recent occasions when fees have been hiked, first to max. £3k and then to max. £9k. English universities wasted little time in going to the maximum available level irregardless of whether this reflects the cost of a university degree (a famously unknowable number); the perceived impact on quality has meant that no university wishes to develop a reputation for being cheap. This has led to the bizarre situation where every degree more or less has the same price tag for domestic students (variations for international students might suggest that there is at least some element of cross-subsidy going on). The USA is undoubtedly much more expensive than England for many students. Their private universities can charge up to $60k per year. However, most importantly, there is choice in the USA. As a domestic student you can go to a local community college followed by an in-state university and gain a Bachelor’s degree for a lot less than £9,000 per year. The majority of US students will never get anywhere near the most expensive universities and those that do, usually have an efficient system of financial aid to mitigate the cost. It is this choice that is largely missing from the English system. Provision within FE colleges or at private universities is usually at a lower tuition fee. In the case of private HE this is largely because student loans for tuition are only available up to £6k a year. Should that cap be lifted I think we can be reasonably certain what would happen…

In conclusion, while the OECD’s conclusion might seem baffling at first, we would have to agree, England is now the most expensive country on earth to be an undergraduate and it is only likely to get worse.

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