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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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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#Clearing 2015 – If UK university desperation is just a little de trop…why not study in France (or other places)?

Clearing Courses 2015 060815

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. Some options that used to exist in the Netherlands, for example, are no longer possible. However, there are still courses there that we believe you could access if you are interested. Please download the list above for further information.

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 and dentistry. We are aware of some offers available for UK students of these subjects but the best option for students who just miss out might very well be to spend a year in Spain on the PreBioscience course in Valencia. We would be happy to talk you through the implications of this pathway if it is of interest to you.

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 3586 4026 but do also send us an email if you can’t get through.

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Why do British Students actually go abroad for their Bachelor’s degree?

Following the recent publication of the British Council’s third annual Broadening Horizons survey of UK and US students’ attitude to international higher education, we thought we would take a look at what British students who are actually abroad say about their decision.

Surveys of this type usually end up focusing on those who have expressed an interest in going abroad but may not end up going (a problem we face with our main annual survey), or they concentrate on students who have typically taken their third year abroad and are thus full of language students to the detriment of other voices.

In response to this we decided to summarise the reasons British students go abroad as communicated to us in the testimonials on our websites. This means the results do not follow any standard survey methodology but we feel they are highly illuminating when finding out why typical British students choose to study abroad for their full degree. It is our belief that these reasons, while certainly similar to those evinced by the British Council’s and others’ research, perhaps offer a more truthful picture of when full degree mobility is the appropriate response to the question of “Where should I go to university?”

With the main decision-making period for 2016 applicants just ahead of us, we hope that this snapshot will present useful information for any students wishing to follow in their footsteps.

About the survey

The survey is based on 40 testimonials gathered during the academic years 2013/14 and 2014/15. The majority of testimonials were completed by students during their first year at university. Around ¾ of respondents were at Dutch universities with the rest studying in France, Norway, USA, Singapore, Spain and Italy.

All respondents are in the process of completing their 3 or 4-year Bachelor’s degree at an international university. None of them is a languages student although many will be learning a new language as part of their studies. We have also ignored medical and dental students in this sampling because they typically reveal very different reasons for studying abroad, almost always connected with supply and demand and entry requirements.

We have paraphrased responses based on the answer to the question “Why did you choose to study abroad?” Students were given completed freedom to tell us whatever they felt was of importance and we made no further attempt to steer their responses. We will link to perhaps the best examples on our website to give further illustration.

 

The reasons British students give for studying abroad

“I want to explore new cultures.”

A sense of adventure drives 50% of our respondents to seek out education abroad. This result is almost identical to the findings of the British Council. There is no denying that an adventurous mind set is almost a prerequisite for studying abroad.

“It’s about money.”

40% of respondents mentioned financial considerations, mostly in terms of being cheaper to study abroad. Some were more motivated by the fear of student debt. Most respondents mentioned money as a secondary consideration eg. “…and it doesn’t hurt that it is also so much cheaper!”

“I already have international experience and want more.”

The 28% of respondents who mentioned this fall into three categories:

  • Dual Nationals or “British-In-Nationality-Only”
  • Brits whose families have lived abroad in the past
  • Recent GAP year returnees suddenly less keen on three years at a UK university

“Education abroad is of a higher quality.”

25% of students mentioned this but only 7.5% explicitly referred to rankings and league table positions. It is unclear how they arrive at such judgements but they are generally satisfied with their choice.

“The UK doesn’t offer the course content I want.”

20% of respondents believe that the course they want to study is offered better abroad. This is most often the case for law and business students who perceive an automatic benefit to cross-border knowledge. Liberal Arts and Sciences students also express this view.

Funnily enough, this reason doesn’t show up in any British Council research.

“The style of education on offer suits me better.”

Most often students refer to:

  • smaller class sizes,
  • better relationships with their tutors and lecturers,
  • more practical approaches to demonstrating learning.

“I want to learn in an international classroom.”

18% of respondents see the presence of students from all nationalities in the classroom as a major benefit. This suggests students are keen to engage with more than just the culture of their new home country.

“I want to stand out from the crowd when it comes to getting a job.”

It is perhaps unsurprising that this appears as a reason for going abroad, particularly when it is often presented as the strongest, rational reason for taking this step. Only 18% of respondents care enough to mention it once they are abroad, however.

“I have the option for further study abroad.”

15% of respondents see value in the ability to take part in an exchange and/or work placement in a third or even fourth country as part of their degree. One respondent in particular mentioned the flexibility to both study abroad and do an exchange as the main reason for not choosing a British university degree.

“I will become more independent and mature.”

10% of respondents mentioned the possibility for personal growth as result of studying abroad.

Other reasons given

 

We hope that this survey gives a good overview of why students actually go abroad. These students are typical of the growing number of British students who are at universities overseas. They have had to overcome the same obstacles that most international students encounter, specifically those relating to language, finance and the availability of accurate, impartial advice.

There is nothing special or different about internationally mobile students. We firmly believe that this is an opportunity for everyone. We hope that the reasons outlined above will help students decide for themselves if this is something they wish to pursue. Further, we hope that it will assist guidance professionals in identifying when studying abroad might be the right choice for a particular individual.

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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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Do you advise British students on applying to Dutch universities?

If you often find yourself being asked about Dutch universities by your students I would like to suggest you attend our International Higher Education for UK Students conferences that will be held in London on Tuesday 9th June and in Birmingham on Wednesday 10th June. Here is some general advice on how to apply to Dutch universities that may serve as a useful introduction.

1. Choosing the right course

Even though the Netherlands has a wide range of Bachelor’s degrees in English (there are currently 218 listed on our Study in Holland website), it is not possible to find everything. Students may need to widen their search terms to find a degree that is suitable. For example, history is not offered as a single subject Bachelor’s degree in English but European history forms a large part, and can become the main focus, of the BA Liberal Arts and Sciences offered at Tilburg University.

Every year there are more options in English and we are already aware of several courses that will launch in 2016 and 2017 so it is always worth checking our site for updates.

2. Choosing the right university

The most important distinction when considering Dutch universities relates to the aptitudes and aspirations of your students; is a research university more suitable than a University of Applied Sciences? This distinction is starting to become a little more blurred but it is still largely true that students will either follow a vocational/professional or academic path in their higher education.

While Dutch research universities such as Tilburg or the University of Groningen are generally reckoned to be amongst the best in the world, we believe it is the Universities of Applied Sciences that are comparatively better than their equivalents in the UK, primarily because of the learning opportunities they offer outside the classroom and library. The business school at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, for example, offers excellent work experience opportunities in many of the world’s leading companies. Windesheim Honours College can offer globally minded students the chance to get involved in humanitarian projects in many countries.

3. Meeting Dutch entry requirements 

In common with many European education systems, students are eligible to apply with extremely modest A’ level or IB scores. However, an increasing number of courses have their own selection criteria. Even so, we would advise you to set your own unofficial entry requirements; allowing unsuitable students to apply is almost certainly going to lead to an unpleasant experience further down the line.

For research universities we would suggest BBB or 34 on the IB should be the minimum expected grades.

For Universities of Applied Sciences students require 2 A’ levels and four GCSEs in six different subjects. BTECs in related subjects will also be considered. For students with three A’ levels they may be able to enter a fast track programme that can be completed in three years (including up to a year’s work experience). Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences offers one such example. Stenden University of Applied Sciences media and hospitality degrees can also be completed in three years for the right students.

4. Applying to Dutch universities

If you have ever had any first-hand experience of Studielink you will know that it can be somewhat counter-intuitive, particularly if you are used to the Ucas system. While we would never claim to be experts in this part of the process, we know lots of people who are. By now, most Dutch universities admissions staff will be able to assist you with the typical difficulties that might emerge. The University of Groningen in particular has amassed quite some experience in this area.

While we can only scratch the surface in a blog post you might be interested to learn that all of the examples we have given above will be represented at our International HE conferences next month in London and Birmingham.

Participating Dutch Universities

Tilburg University

University of Groningen

Windesheim Honours College (London only)

Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (London only)

Stenden University of Applied Sciences

A further six universities from France, Italy, Spain, USA and Australia will also be attending, allowing you the opportunity to learn about more than just the Dutch way of doing things.

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Ucas data harvesting – Not such a wise investment

In our last post we addressed several of the issues arising from Ucas’s expansion into international university admissions. We only briefly mentioned one of the more longstanding gripes we have with the way Ucas uses applicants’ data. The UK Information Commissioner has now ruled that Ucas broke electronic marketing rules when it passed details on up to 700,000 students to its commercial arm, Ucas Media.

According to The Guardian, the ICO ruled on Wednesday (8th April 2015) that the approach meant applicants “felt obliged to let Ucas use their information for commercial purposes, otherwise they’d potentially miss out on important information about their career or education”.

The tactic breached both the Data Protection Act, which requires personal information to be processed fairly, and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, which govern electronic marketing and require consent to be given freely and for a specific purpose, the ICO said.

Ucas Media has agreed to change the sign-up on its site by 30th June 2015 that may have scared students into believing they would have missed out on information directly relating to their education choices if they hadn’t given permission to be marketed to. However, it is unlikely that all of the students currently in the system will go back to amend their settings. For international universities who are thinking about using Ucas Media to promote their offerings, they might find themselves in breach of data protection regulations in their own countries were they to do so. This could have repercussions within the European Union at the very least and it would perhaps be advisable to wait until the next applicant cycle before even considering using Ucas data for marketing purposes.

Ucas is in a highly privileged position given its central role in university applications in the United Kingdom. Misleading applicants about the uses to which their data might be put hardly tallies with their claim to have a unique insight into the desires of British students. It is good that this abuse of student data will now end.

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The pros and cons of applying to international universities through Ucas.

Firstly, I have to say that any step to make international higher education as normal and as accessible as British university options is to be applauded. Since founding A Star Future in 2006 this has been my one overriding ambition so I will take help in achieving this goal wherever I can get it.

Having said that, the idea of applying to international universities through Ucas has been around for a few years now, predating even the increase in UK tuition fees. Many of the advantages and disadvantages of facilitating applications through Ucas are well-rehearsed hypotheses; it now seems that we might get the chance to find out for real how it will work.

It is difficult to know at this stage exactly what will be a pro and a con so I have listed all of the considerations I can think of and will leave you to draw your own conclusions.

  1. Ucas reserves the right to choose which universities are the right quality. Does it have this power in the UK? While there are good reasons for assessing financial stability of Higher Education Institutions as well as credential recognition, is it really Ucas’s place to pass judgement on this? This will naturally have a limiting effect on the range of universities abroad that might be willing to submit themselves to this vetting. At this moment in time there are possibly only two public universities in Europe (except Ireland) that could sensibly be considered candidates and one of these, Maastricht University, has already ruled itself out for now. We recently published a report on the Top 50 European Universities and the opportunities that actually exist in English at Bachelor’s level. There are roughly 100 suitable degrees and almost one quarter of these are found at University of Groningen, perhaps the only likely international addition to Ucas at this time. You can download a copy of the report from the advisors area of the A Star Future website.
  2. By allowing admissions via the Ucas process international universities will dramatically increase the visibility of their Bachelor’s degrees in the UK. We try our best to make British students aware of international opportunities but our reach is somewhat limited in comparison with that of Ucas. The publicity benefits alone might make it worthwhile for international universities to include themselves. It is worth noting that Maastricht University plans to make use of Ucas’s marketing services rather than application services, utilising data harvested from UK university applicants to promote international higher education. This is nothing new, however.
  3. While presenting international opportunities alongside British ones might give applicants a better overview of the options in other countries in their subjects, it will be extremely difficult to provide meaningful comparative data about them. Key Information Sets are not a standardised component of the data international universities provide to applicants. Where they do exist, such as in the Netherlands, they cannot really provide direct comparisons with UK data particularly in areas such as graduate employability rates and student satisfaction. This is easier in the case of measures such as staff/student ratios, contact hours etc. and might be quite illuminating for British students.
  4. Applying through Ucas will make it easier for British students apply to international universities although it remains to be seen whether other country-specific application requirements would remain in place. Using Ucas might give students an overly simplified impression of the ease of studying abroad. We regularly deal with students encountering difficulties with international admission systems. While this can be frustrating and some systems appear counter-intuitive for British applicants and their advisors, it does serve as a useful introduction to the fact that things are different in other countries. If you can’t cope with the vagaries of a university’s entry processes is it really a good idea to commit to studying there for at least three years?
  5. When applying to a British university it is ordinarily essential to do so via Ucas. In other countries it will be very difficult to shut down direct applications so students could theoretically be rejected through Ucas and still have the chance to apply again for the same course at the same university. Given that many courses at universities abroad have relatively low A’ level entry requirements (even the very best universities can occasionally make offers to students students with EEE and in many countries unconditional offers are the norm) will anyone who applies through Ucas automatically be given an unconditional offer? If this becomes widespread it could have a distorting effect on UK students’ application strategies. This is becoming less of an issue as more English-taught courses employ some kind of additional selection criteria but this is not true for all courses in Europe at this time.
  6. Students are already notorious for not researching their fifth choice in Ucas. Some might be tempted to include an international choice without properly investigating the implications. We already have examples every year of students who only realise that Student Finance England support is not available to them after they have enrolled at university abroad and this is in spite of the fact that both our websites explicitly state this. Will Ucas be able to give students an accurate picture of the financial reality in a way that British students will actually take notice of? In some cases it wouldn’t surprise me if students select a course abroad without realising this is what they have done simply because they will be attracted by the headline tuition fees.
  7. Currently it is possible for students to accept offers from two universities in the UK (firm and insurance choice) and as many as they like from universities in other countries. This won’t change if students apply directly to international universities. However, if they apply through Ucas will accepting an international offer take up one of their two choices? If so, they might wish not to apply through Ucas in order to take maximum advantage of the additional choice international universities can offer.
  8. If students do use international universities primarily as an insurance offer because of the likelihood of receiving a lower offer this could generate a huge amount of acceptances but a much worse conversion rate than British universities would expect. There are further complications involved with students treating universities abroad as an insurance choice. Studies at many European universities can start as early as the first week of September leaving only two weeks between results day and the start of life abroad. If you are looking at a popular student city, this lack of preparation is likely to have serious consequences in terms of finding accommodation and settling in. We would strongly discourage speculative applications to international universities based on superficially attractive considerations such as lower tuition fees and easier entrance requirements. Making it easier for British students to apply to international universities might give those universities cause to be careful what they wish for.

At present it seems the only international higher education institution that has actually been granted permission to list its Bachelor’s degrees in Ucas is a private fashion school in Amsterdam offering a degree accredited by Bucks New University at a first year tuition fee of €15,600. While I am not in a position to judge this institution in any way, it does rather contradict the arguments laid out in most news articles that have been published recently about this development.

It is obviously necessary to reserve judgement on the success or otherwise of this development. By allowing international universities into Ucas it may be that the greater long term impact is on students from outside the UK being able to apply to British and other universities at the same time. I could certainly envisage a scenario where international universities are attracted to Ucas because it might bring them international students who were previously only considering UK destinations. British universities might not be delighted by such a development.

A final concluding thought: If Ucas is looking at ways of expanding internationally might it not be best off employing its undoubted expertise to improve other admissions systems in other countries? Studielink in the Netherlands, for one, could perhaps learn a thing or two.

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What does #free education really mean?

Following last week’s demonstrations in London there has been increased focus on how other countries can afford to sustain mass-participation higher education without resorting to £9,000 a year tuition fees. While “free education” exists precisely nowhere, there are certainly variations in the way that students cover the cost of going to university not to mention differences in the contribution that national governments make.

We thought it might be a good idea to look at three of our European neighbours to see whether the reality there is any better.

 

How Do French Students Pay For University?

Whilst students at French universities pay amongst the lowest tuition fees in Europe (for 2014/15 the set enrolment fee is €184 per annum for most three year Bachelor’s degrees), they still have to fund living costs for the duration of their study.

Key findings from a recent report by the Observatoire de la Vie Étudiante, or OVE, identified the main sources of student income for students studying in France. With barely 1% of support from students loans (available from some banks under guarantee), over 30% from family support, followed closely by 29% from paid employment (almost twice as much as in UK), the landscape of student finance in France contrasts dramatically with the UK funding situation.

Nearly one in two students undertake paid work during the French university year and according to the OVE report more than half considered their employment essential to their survival.

Fage (Fédération des Associations Générales Étudiantes) also calculated that a student has to spend an average of €2,525 (nearly £2,000) to start an academic year at a French university, an increase of 1.5% on 2013/14 figures. FAGE also claims that 28% of students had to take paid work to get by, and that there was a 50% risk of academic failure for those who worked more than 12 hours a week.

Income Source UK* France*
  % of income
Fee and Maintenance Loans 58% 1%
Family Support 14% 30%
Paid Work 15% 29%
Grants / Bursaries / Public Benefits 12% 25%
Miscellaneous 1% 15%

(6% respectively for both savings and support from a spouse/partner; 3% miscellaneous)

*Statistics Sources

UK: Student Income and Expenditure Survey 2011/12 (published June 2013 by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills) BIS Research Paper Number 115

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/301467/bis-14-723-student-income-expenditure-survey-2011-12.pdf

 

France: Observatoire de la Vie Étudiante, or OVE: La Vie Étudiante: Repères: http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20141021110203573

While university in France may work out cheaper for students overall, there is clear evidence that students have to rely more on personal resources and part-time work than their British counterparts.

French public universities have not benefited from anything like the investment in infrastructure that most British universities have seen over recent years. Class sizes and facilities are unlikely to be impressive to British students. Private universities, sometimes owned by regional chambers of commerce, are increasingly prevalent and have little problem recruiting students at around €8,000 a year tuition fees.

It is also worth noting that the Grandes Ecoles in France attract around 30% of state funding for undergraduate education yet have only around 4% of the number of students. So, French students at the elite end of the higher education spectrum probably have less to worry about from the perspective of value for money.

How Do German Students Pay For University?

Germany has been held up as an example of mass higher education entirely funded by the state. From 2015 there will be no tuition fees at any public university as financial responsibility for higher education passes back from the 16 Bundeslaender to the federal government.

In recent years Germany has seen growth in the number of students going to university although the “dual” system of apprenticeships with vocational training still accounts for a large proportion of young people after they leave school. The number of students at university in Germany is roughly comparable with the United Kingdom although the proportion of total population is slightly lower at this time.

From 2016 there will be changes to the way that German students pay for university but these will actually make the system slightly more generous than it is currently. Through BAföG, the German Federal Training Assistance Act, student finance is determined by law. In 2016 all students at university will be able to access financial assistance in the amount of €735 per month. 50% of this amount will be as a grant with the remainder either a grant or an interest-free loan depending on the income of the student’s family. In addition, there is a rent subsidy of up to €250 per month for students living away from home. There is no loan facility for tuition fees for the rather obvious reason that there are no tuition fees.

It is therefore likely that a student borrowing the maximum amount possible through the German system would leave university after a three-year Bachelor’s degree with a total debt of around €11,000 and no interest would have accrued on this amount. The state’s contribution to a student’s education would be around €18,000. This would suggest that the total cost of educating a German student to Bachelor’s degree level is around €30,000 plus whatever funding is made available to the university by direct grant. It is likely that this would be around the same overall amount as in England.

How Do Dutch Students Pay For University?

Dutch students are faced with tuition fees higher than in either Germany or France but still significantly lower than in England. In 2015, one year at university will cost €1,951 for nearly every Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.

Students can borrow the tuition fees from their government in the form of a loan that is repaid over a 15 year period. This loan is made directly to students and it is their responsibility to pay the fees themselves.

The principle behind tuition fees in the Netherlands is roughly comparable to the English system before the introduction of £9,000 fees; students are asked to make a contribution to the cost of their education which is then topped up by the Dutch government on a per student basis. For every Dutch or other EU student universities can expect to receive around €9,000 in funding.

For maintenance costs Dutch students can currently access a combination of grants and loans. However, there is some suggestion that will this convert entirely into loans in the next few years. Currently students who live away from home are automatically entitled to a grant of around €250 per month. There is also an additional entitlement of around €250 but this is means-tested and can be either a grant or a loan, or as a combination of both. If this element is awarded as a loan it is currently interest-free for the duration of the student’s time at university.

Dutch students are also awarded a nationwide travel card that is either valid through the week or at the weekend. This allows train travel throughout the country.

In addition to the loans outlined above there is also provision for a hardship loan of around €275 per month for students who need this in order to meet their financial obligations. This loan is subject to interest at market rates.

For further details on how this works you can visit the loans and grants page of our website: www.studyinholland.co.uk/loans_and_grants.

One peculiarity of the Dutch system is that British and other EU passport holders can benefit from maintenance finance if they meet certain conditions. Ordinarily, student finance to cover tuition fees must be made available to all EU citizens but maintenance support is discretionary.

British students who work 56 hours a month every month of the year can claim maintenance finance after three months. In effect, it is possible to become a Dutch resident after only three months whereas in other countries it may take years. This financial support is becoming harder to claim as the Dutch government regularly alters the terms and conditions. As it is dependent on residency status rather than student status such changes are not actually changes to student finance in the way that this might be understood in the UK.

Other Countries

The pressure on national governments to expand higher education provision is felt in almost every country of the European Union.

In Denmark, strict limits on the number of student places have been introduced, particularly in the arts and humanities, in order to maintain free provision for those who get a place. This may have negative consequences for those who find cutbacks in their area of interest and are now denied access to a university education.

In Scotland there is some suggestion that tuition free undergraduate study has come at the expense of investment in other areas of post-secondary education.

In many countries means-testing is used to assess how much the student’s own contribution to the cost of their education should be. In countries such as Spain and Italy, students will be expected to pay for their higher education in advance.

There are very few countries where maintenance loans are available to other EU students. Bulgaria is often cited as an example of a country where such loans are available but these are loans from high street banks, underwritten by the national government, and have more in common with commercial bank loans than student finance.

Conclusion

The cost of university in England is certainly likely to be higher than in any other European country. However, the student finance system does at least allow anyone to go to university irrespective of their financial circumstances.

We advise British students considering international universities primarily to avoid English student debt to look beyond the cost of university education because access to finance is likelier to have a bigger impact than the actual price tag.

It is extremely unlikely that English students will be able to use universities abroad to obtain a free higher education as very little funding is available in other countries. Within the EU, tuition fee loans will be available to British students where they exist and means-testing of fees will also apply. However, there is no requirement for funding available for maintenance to be made available to non-nationals. As this is usually the largest component of the cost of European higher education it can be an insurmountable obstacle.

The wider issue of whether or not students should be required to pay all or a share of the costs of their higher education divides not only the United Kingdom but the whole European Union. Countries that do not charge fees may see constraints on the size of their higher education provision.

Perhaps it is better to focus on the burden that student loans are likely to place on students after they graduate and their size relative to earning potential. In the USA financial advisers will often encourage students to take on debt only up to the amount of one year’s expected post-graduation income. English student debts are likely to exceed first year earnings of almost every graduate and while repayments are capped, this does suggest that the burden placed on English students is beyond the amount that could be considered sensible.

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Results Day 2014 – Are there any Clearing options abroad?

Clearing Courses 2014 110814

As in the last few years, many universities abroad are looking at Clearing and A Level Results day as an opportunity to attract British students. In the past this has proven to be quite a successful strategy. It remains to be seen what will happen this year with British universities seemingly much more likely to be flexible if students should miss their grades narrowly.

We have always been somewhat skeptical about making a last-minute decision to go abroad largely because it is usually motivated by negative reasoning; if you can’t find what you are looking for here then maybe you can find it abroad. While this may be true, we would always encourage students to take a more measured approach to choosing their course, university and, in this case, country. Having said that, we suspect that some British students are already halfway convinced that studying abroad is the right choice for them, either because they have the desire to live abroad or because they have identified that the British way of learning might not necessarily suit them as well as other options. We believe that these students can find a limited supply of opportunities that might be worthy of their consideration.

Some of the best examples currently available are:

1. ATLAS, Academy of Technology, Liberal Arts and Sciences at University of Twente in the Netherlands. This a unique course offering a combination of creativity, engineering and business skills but even that is not the full breadth of the subjects encompassed within this degree. Having spoken to British students on this course we believe that it is an excellent option for those who might not have found what they are looking for. You will have to be quick if you want to apply though. Deadline is this Friday, 15th August and the course itself starts in early September.

2. DigiPen Institute of Technology, Bilbao, Spain. DigiPen is one of the world’s leading higher education institutions in the field of computer game design. Students go on to work for some of the main games studios in the world although their programmers can also find themselves working in a wide range of serious game applications. When we checked yesterday, there were three places available on their Computer Programming degree and one place on their Digital Art and Animation degree. We expect that these will be taken very soon. If you are interested in studying at a university ranked globally in the Top 3 by The Princeton Review, then DigiPen is definitely worth a look.

3. Florida State University in London and Tallahassee. FSU’s Gateway Program might be the thing for you if you are attracted to US higher education but haven’t yet taken the all the steps required to apply directly. FSU offers students the chance to complete the first year of their degree in London before transferring to Florida, together with your fellow students from London. This is a great way to adapt to the different way of studying in the US while making sure that you are in a position to hit the ground running when you arrive in the States. Having spoken to several British students who have done this, we think it is certainly something to be recommended. The deadline for applying is Saturday 16th August and you can start the application process here.

 

These are just some of the highlights of the courses still available in 2014. Check out the full list as posted above and if you need any advice please feel free to get in touch.

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