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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 Star Future is coming to Plymouth

facebook-photo-plymouth-event

Next month we will be visiting around 10 schools in the south west of England. However, we will not be able to get everywhere we are wanted so on Thursday 3rd November, we will host an open event at the Copthorne Hotel in Plymouth. Any students, parents or advisors who would like to learn more about international higher education are welcome to attend. You can register for the event here.

We will be joined by John Martin, a current student at Rotterdam Business School. He will be happy to share his experiences of life in the Netherlands and the reasons why he chose to go so far from Plymouth to get his degree.

In addition to learning at first hand about life in the Netherlands, we will endeavour to answer any questions participants may have about international Bachelor’s degrees taught in English anywhere around the world.

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What will happen to British students in the Netherlands if/when Brexit arrives?

calm-down

How do you say “Keep Calm and Carry On” in Dutch?

I was in the Netherlands last week visiting a variety of universities throughout the country. While it was hugely encouraging to see that most universities have increased their number of British enrollments this year, there were certainly signs that one or two had dropped out, citing Brexit as a major concern.

When we are trying to advise students of the impact of Brexit on tuition fees, I think we are more or less clear for every country except the Netherlands. This is the main country where British students benefit from direct subsidy in their host country. We have asked many universities what measures they can put in place to reassure British students in the event that the vote to leave the European Union is actually implemented. While it still isn’t possible for anyone to say what will happen (and expect this state of affairs to continue at least until Article 50 is implemented), I think we can now have a good stab at outlining what will not happen. We can also perhaps point to the worst-case scenario, which from an English point of view may not look so bad after all.

Will students who started university this year be guaranteed EU fees for the duration of their studies on the basis that they have started before any change has been announced? No. Universities have taken legal advice on this and it cannot be done as it would result in discrimination against other non-EU students. Also, universities would be foregoing revenue from central government if it were even legal to do this. Hence, there is absolutely no chance of this happening without the Dutch Ministry of Education taking the lead. There is no suggestion that this will happen. Some in the UK have imagined this might be a possibility because British universities have said they will honour this commitment to their existing EU students (and, more importantly perhaps, the Student Loan Company has said it will do so, too). British universities enjoy greater autonomy when setting fees and, with the exception of STEM subjects, don’t receive direct government subsidy since the introduction of £9,000 fees. For these reasons, this is not a like-for-like comparison.

Could universities decide to charge British students a lower amount than full, non-EU fees? This falls into the same discriminatory problem as the previous scenario. Effectively, this would amount to a blanket scholarship for British students on the grounds that they are British. This isn’t legal and couldn’t be achieved. British students could be able to apply for scholarships offered to non-EU students but they would have no automatic right to them.

Will British students still be able to access tuition fee loans or maintenance loans if we leave the EU? No. This would also end overnight.

To maintain the same fees and access to student finance in the Netherlands would require the UK’s continuing membership of the EU, joining the EEA, or negotiating a separate agreement that would allow for reciprocity. All of these would probably require the maintenance of freedom of movement. As a result, I am not holding my breath.

So, if we are to leave, what would this mean for British students?

Well, the good news is that Dutch tuition fees for international students are not that high anyway. You would be looking at around €8,000 per year for arts and humanities courses, around €12,000 for sciences. The University Colleges would be around €10,000 a year. All of these are comparable with English tuition fees which will resume their own upward journey from September 2017. We have never encouraged students to go to The Netherlands for primarily financial reasons; it has only ever been a nice additional bonus. However, we can accept that this might make it difficult for some British students to afford.

The other major change would affect the rights of British students to live and work in the Netherlands. While there is already talk of making British citizens pay to visit the rest of the EU, we don’t know if this will have an impact on students. We can’t say for certain what the impact would be on British students’ right to work, either. However, the standard allowance for non-EU international students is 10 hours a week, meaning that the maximum earning potential could be seriously restricted.

We will obviously aim to update this information as we know more.

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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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Advice for British students looking to study medicine, dentistry or vet med abroad after A level results day.

Every year we speak to hundreds of students who know that they will not be able to get a place in the UK to study their chosen profession, usually because they have exhausted their options here already or their AS levels did not support an application straight out of school. Such students have an advantage in that they are able to plan their next move in a timely manner, investigating the full implications of studying abroad for somewhere between five and seven years.

It is those students who are holding offers in the UK which they narrowly miss who are likely to be facing a big decision on where their future lies. If this is a dilemma that you are facing for the first time this week, or if it has suddenly become real, this advice is for you. It is based on the typical questions that students ask us when starting to think about studying abroad. Clearly, there are many aspects of the decision that we cannot influence, you might decide that medicine or dentistry is not the route for you after all, and we can never know your own personal circumstances, but we think there are many questions you will have where we can perhaps help.

  1. How do I choose the right medical/dental/vet school?

Which is the best medical school in Europe that is easiest to get in to? This is a typical first question from students and it is an awful one. Is the best option likely to be the easiest? It might very well be the most affordable (what you get and what you pay for aren’t always the same thing) but getting into medical school just means you have jumped the first hurdle – there are many other things to consider.

Obviously you need to know that you meet the entry requirements (and if you don’t have both chemistry and biology A levels, or if you have BTECs or an Access to HE qualification you quite possibly won’t) and that your grades will be acceptable but many medical, dental or vet schools won’t actually care about your grades. What they will care about is how you do in their own entrance exam and this is the first problem that you will face: you are quite possibly too late to apply for 2016 admission. Some schools will have exams in the next few weeks in London; recruiting British students after results day is a well-established practice. The entrance exam for Italian public medical schools takes place next month but you would need to have registered for this already.

Once you have satisfied yourself that you stand a chance of getting a place, the next question I would ask is probably the most important of all: how many students start in the first year and how many of those graduate on target five (or more usually six) years later? How many of these are the same people? You will undoubtedly come across agents offering guaranteed places. Do you really want to go to a medical school that accepts just about anyone who can afford it? This is one area where you really do get what you pay for in the sense that private, more expensive medical schools are likelier to cap the size of their classes at a sensible number. For example, the number of students at Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Rome is 54 per year and their students are well supported throughout their time at the university. The maximum number of students at European University of Cyprus is 100 per year. The typical first-year intake of some Bulgarian medical schools is well over 1,000. Italian public universities are notorious for overcrowding but these latter options will be significantly cheaper. You could make a strong case for it being a worse investment, however.

  1. Will I need to learn a foreign language?

For most British students the next thing to consider is the language in which the course will be taught ie. will it be in English? There are an increasing number of options taught entirely in English but they are not available in all European countries. For example, we get many students who wish to study in Germany and Scandinavian countries because tuition fees there are zero. There is no chance of this happening if you don’t speak the language (and, let’s be honest, your chances are exceedingly slim even if you do – Polish, Hungarian and Czech medical schools are full of Norwegian and German students). Every year we come across one or two new European options but they are usually in the same countries:

  • Medicine – central and eastern Europe, Netherlands (50% in Dutch), Italy, Cyprus and Malta
  • Dentistry – central and eastern Europe, Spain
  • Veterinary Medicine – central and eastern Europe, Spain (50% in Spanish)

It is quite rare for British students to combine A levels in languages with sciences (if you haven’t, you have already ruled out your chances of studying medicine in Malta, for example). In many students’ imagination, learning a foreign language seems like an insurmountable task. If you live in a country where it is spoken, the language should be much easier to acquire than in a GCSE class a few hours a week. In most cases (exceptions noted above) your classes and exams will be entirely in English. You will need to speak the local language to deal with patients and, to put it bluntly, you cannot become a doctor or a dentist if you cannot deal with patients (vets have owners to think about). We occasionally have students who insist that they will only go to places where they can qualify entirely in English and this is possible: if you have the money, by all means go to the Caribbean or Australia (Ireland is extremely unlikely and the USA will almost certainly bankrupt you). For most people, however, studying health sciences abroad means studying elsewhere in Europe and that means learning a language. It is fair to say that Spanish might be easier to learn than Bulgarian or Czech (not to mention more useful later in life) but if you go into this thinking that you can minimize the importance of learning the local language, you are going into this with the wrong frame of mind and we would encourage you to think twice.

  1. Will my degree be GMC/GDC/RCVS recognized?

Yes. But here is the one area where Brexit could have a major impact on your future. European degrees will not suddenly become worse overnight if we are no longer legally obliged to recognize them. Given the sheer number of foreign-qualified doctors, dentists and vets working in the UK (not to mention Brits working abroad), there will be problems if we suddenly stop recognizing foreign qualifications. However, it is possible that this will happen. I cannot rule it out; nobody can. All I can say is that if you start from where you are today and you want to become a doctor in the shortest time possible, going to study in Europe is probably still the best move.

  1. Should I take an alternative Bachelor’s degree in the UK and try for graduate entry?

No.

OK, I appreciate that my advice here might be biased and needs to be tempered by all the other considerations that you will have. However, I think it is definitely something you need to hear as it might contradict what you will be told by other sources.

Clearly, many students in the UK are attracted to options that appear to keep them on track to becoming a doctor or dentist after the completion of a Bachelor’s degree. However, this doesn’t always work and there are precious few graduate-entry routes available elsewhere in Europe. This means that upon completion of a 3 year BSc in Biomedical Science, for example, you might have to start at the beginning again at a European medical, dental of vet school. Given the sheer expense involved in studying in the UK now (and the fact that money will be required to study abroad), does it really make sense to start down this path even if it is the only one that might be readily available to you this week?

Every year we have students who drop out midway through a BSc to start their studies abroad before they have graduated here. Their prior study is not always taken into consideration by their new university, meaning that their UK studies are effectively worthless. Of course, I do not believe them to be worthless but they have no impact at all on the length of time required to train as a doctor, dentist or vet. At most, a prior degree might shorten your studies by one year.

  1. How much is it going to cost?

Well, given that you are looking at a five or six-year commitment, you can expect it to be expensive. However, there is a wide range of potential tuition fees and living costs. It is probably best to check our website for the cost of individual courses.

The one financial consideration that is the same wherever you go is that British student finance isn’t going to travel with you; you are on your own financially. This usually means that the decision to study abroad is one that needs to be taken as a family. You definitely need to get their input when trying to decide what is feasible. There is absolutely no point in applying to a university if you know you will not be able to afford to take up your place there. Scholarships and bursaries are extremely rare. Many universities that offer them to other students actually make exemptions for students of medicine and dentistry. To once again put it bluntly, as an international student you are a cash-cow. You will be expected to contribute to the bottom line, not subtract from it.

The only country currently operating a student loan system that you might be able to access is Bulgaria. Even here, there are restrictions on the loans and last year, the system ran out of money before all students were able to complete their application. It is worth checking the current status of the student loan system in Bulgaria before committing to a place there, especially if you will not be able to afford to study there otherwise.

  1. Do I need an agent to get into medical, dental or vet school abroad?

Once again, my advice on this point is a little biased based on my own experience but I can perhaps offer some perspective on this issue that you might not otherwise get.

If you are looking to apply last-minute for 2016 entry, you are almost certainly going to need help. Applications can be complicated procedures but often the part that is least tricky is getting you a place. Obviously, this depends on supply and demand as well as your academic record but if you meet the required standard, and places are available, it is often quite easy to arrange to sit an entrance exam or get an offer letter if this isn’t necessary.

Meeting the other requirements around payment, translation of documents, moving to a new country etc. are all examples of issues where you might need assistance. However, none of these are of any importance at all if you do not have an offer letter even though some agents will make you pay for these services up front even if you never end up needing them. There is no point applying to a university if you just want to see what would happen if you put in an application. This is a waste of everyone’s time and most university representatives should be able to give you a good idea of your chances without submitting a formal application.

I can also see it from an agent’s point of view. You are likely to be considering multiple options, sometimes at the same university using different representatives. This can create a conflict of interests and nobody likes to work on the basis that they might never get paid for their efforts. It is therefore understandable that some agents will charge fees before you get an offer letter. This has led to an incredibly competitive marketplace, a race-to-the-bottom particularly around medical schools in Bulgaria and Romania. Last time I counted, there were over 40 representatives offering places at these schools to UK and Irish students with fees ranging from around £750 to £3,000. While I can sympathise with agents who need to operate this way, I also cannot see how this situation can be squared with offering impartial advice to young people who are facing a huge decision about their future.

There are agents out there who will offer free advice. We work as an agent with a handful of medical, dental and veterinary medicine schools and we do not charge students for our services. However, this also means there are many options where we cannot help you any further than just offering general advice. The purpose of this blog post is to provide you with just that information. We really don’t have much more to say about other options. If you would like assistance with any of the following universities for 2016/17 admission, please feel free to contact us for more detailed information:

Medicine

Dentistry

Veterinary Medicine

 

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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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