Category Archives: Student Mobility

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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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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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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Government goes back on its word regarding tuition loan repayment threshold

About four years ago when the new fees regime and related changes to student finance were being announced we took part in a BBC Radio 4 Money Box special edition. One of the other guests was Martin Lewis, money saving expert and, at the time, front man for the government’s campaign to inform the public about the forthcoming changes.

I argued that the changes to student finance were one thing but the payment terms that students would enjoy for the thirty year period after graduation were quite another. It seems that the government has taken the first opportunity it could to go back on its word and amend the terms of repayment and they have backdated these changes to affect everyone who has one of the new loans, even those who have already graduated. Mr Lewis has already made his opinion clear on this act of deception.

The changes announced (that the £21,000 starting point for repayments will not rise in line with inflation) will not have an immediate impact but over the lifetime of most loans it is estimated that the average student will repay an additional £6,000 if the threshold is not increased in the future. This will particularly penalise median earners who are making some repayments but cannot make a significant reduction in the capital of their loan. As no student has yet made any repayment under the new regime I can only speculate that projections for rates of repayment are lower than the worst estimates currently in circulation and the Chancellor is just getting in early with this amendment. How long will it be before 9% of earnings over the threshold becomes 10% or more?

I don’t want this blog to be about the bad hand being dealt English students right now. You can find far better analysis of this elsewhere. However, there can be no doubt that the best advice we can offer students considering a Bachelor’s degree here: have you thought seriously about leaving the country?

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City firms not finding what they need in independent school students.

Earlier this week, Mary Curnock Cook, head of Ucas, spoke at the HMC annual conference in St Andrews and suggested that independent schools are preparing students with narrow, almost identical outlooks on life. The necessary conclusion of this being that the life experience of such students does not provide the diversity that successful organisations need in the 21st Century.

Quoted in The Daily Telegraph she said, “It seems to me that not only are (independent school) students going to the same universities that their parents went to, but they are also studying the same subjects that their parents did.

“So I worry about a little sub-section of society which is sleepwalking though an identikit education experience into an off-the-peg life which mirrors what generations of the affluent classes have aspired to.

“The future is not what is used to be – the new sciences, digital economy, digital and creative industries have changed the shape of employment.

“Maybe just maybe some of them should give serious thought to choosing to study something different, somewhere else.”

Where that somewhere else might be is left unstated. I doubt there is much of a case to be made for encouraging able British students, and their aspirational parents,  to go to “lesser” universities in the United Kingdom although it certainly would not harm them to look at a wider range of courses.  The identikit education experience to which she refers can probably be better avoided at universities abroad.

There is plentiful evidence that studying abroad can shape the outlook of any young person and almost always for the better. However, even if independent schools, parents and students are looking for a narrow, evidence-based rationale for choosing a university abroad the recent Times Higher Education World University Rankings can provide this. Although these rankings are largely inappropriate when assessing the quality of these universities’ undergraduate teaching and student support, undeniably they give an indication of overall quality and reputation.

Below we present a snapshot of those universities in the Top 50 in non-English speaking Europe that offer Bachelors degrees in English. Over the last two years, all but two of these universities have seen their overall ranking improve. Perhaps it isn’t all that surprising that more British students are going to study abroad particularly in the Netherlands.  It would seem that City firms might be able find the talent they need in the near future but they will also have to cast their net a little wider when looking for the best talent.

Rank University Country Global Rank Bachelors in English
2 Karolinska Institute Sweden 28 1
5 KU Leuven Belgium 35 4
11 University of Amsterdam Netherlands 58 5
12 University of Utrecht Netherlands 62 3
13 Delft University of Technology Netherlands 65 2
14 Leiden University Netherlands 67 6
15 Erasmus University Netherlands 71 10
17 University of Groningen Netherlands 74 25
22 University of Freiberg Germany 84 1
23 Maastricht University Netherlands 88 10
24 Lund University Sweden 90 5
26 Georg August Universitaet Goettingen Germany 99 1
38 Radboud University Nijmegen Netherlands 130 6
41 Stockholm University Sweden 136 2
46 Aarhus University Denmark 149 4
47 University of Twente Netherlands 149 12
48 VU University Amsterdam Netherlands 154 3

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Portable Student Finance for British Students? Probably still a pipe dream.

I think we can put this down to wishful thinking but it appears that loans for British students going abroad were very much part of David Willetts’ plan when he was minister responsible for higher education.

Many countries invest in their future talent to come to the United Kingdom for the purposes of higher education. Speaking at the British Council’s  “Going Global” conference in London earlier this week, Willetts suggested that he would have been delighted to offer reciprocal arrangements for British students.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the ability to borrow money from Student Finance England would be an absolute game-changer for British students. The relative cost of higher education is of little importance when choosing where to study but the ability to be able to afford it is absolutely essential. In short, it doesn’t matter that education in Denmark is free if you cannot get a loan to cover living costs – many students will be shut out.

We have often been asked by journalists and academics in northern European countries why students from lower income families aren’t leaving the UK in droves. The answer has always been that you still need to have money behind you to be able to benefit from a lower cost opportunity. Students without the financial wherewithal are not only unable to take advantage of these options overseas but also unsubtly reminded of the unfairness of British university tuition fees. I accept my analysis ignores the availability of scholarships and bursaries in the UK but evidence that these are reaching the right students is hardly conclusive.

Earlier in the Going Global conference, the new HE minister, Jo Johnson, spoke passionately about his time studying at Universite Libre de Bruxelles and INSEAD in France. Will he now take steps to ensure that any student in the United Kingdom can benefit from similar educational experience? I am not holding my breath (I doubt UK university vice chancellors will be happy to see funding follow the student out of the country…) but I will be asking the question.

You can read the original article on The PIE News website.

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What is the Point of 50% Targets for International Student Mobility?

 

Many policy initiatives in the area of international higher education aim to achieve outbound mobility for 50% of all students. The German government has announced a target of 50% of its local students to take part in international education and here in the UK, many universities have announced similar targets, most notably De Montfort University. While it is encouraging to note that such initiatives are usually backed by additional financial support for students (or an acknowledgment that it will be necessary to achieve their goals) there are still a number of problems involved in aiming for such an arbitrary target.

Firstly, what constitutes international experience and is it meaningful in an educational context? To reach this target it will be natural to include all manner of international experience; DMU mentions anything from a four-week language course upwards. While there is almost certainly a benefit to any prolonged period of time abroad, is it sensible to think that this will lead to a greater appreciation of life in another country or indeed anything beyond a cursory evaluation of another culture? The same argument can also apply to a full academic year abroad if it does not allow students to integrate fully into the life of a host university or company, in the case of work experience. For an individual university there is also the issue of managing sufficient partnerships to avoid recreating its own classrooms on foreign soil. In the case of DMU the ultimate plan is to send 11,000 students abroad; this will require a huge number of institutional partners. These arguments are well-known and well-rehearsed amongst professionals in the field of international higher education so does this mean that within every 50% target there is a tacit agreement about how much should be made up of students who go for a full year or more, or those who go for less than a month and how many should go to any one partner university at any one time?

Also, those students who go fully international for their education do not tend to show up in any recorded statistics and can fall between the cracks if they are not registered with an educational institution in their own country and/or receiving government financial support. It could therefore be that the amount of students internationally mobile lies somewhere between 0 and 100% of young people not in domestic higher education or otherwise accounted for.

Secondly, why 50%? Which half of the student population would not benefit from international higher education or couldn’t be persuaded to spend some time abroad? The poorest? The most male?

We spend a huge amount of time advising young people in the United Kingdom on the possibility of studying abroad for all or part of their undergraduate study. While there is undoubtedly a growth in interest and willingness to consider studying abroad I doubt we could say that 50% of young people are enthused by this possibility. Would it not be better to focus on those students who are actually interested in going abroad and providing them with suitable options and/or financial support? A 50% target can only be the result of a governmental or institutional perspective, one that is prescriptive in its attitude to students’ needs. If international higher education is a genuinely good thing, and I firmly believe it is, shouldn’t we just be focussing on helping those students who show an interest rather than shoehorning as many people as necessary into meeting an arbitrary target? If higher education wishes to address an issue relating to international student mobility wouldn’t it be better to target this:

UniSouthDenmark @UniSouthDenmark:
Why this difference? Females account for 63.5% of all people who study abroad while males 36.5%

230614 Uni of Denmark stat

 

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