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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How to get a scholarship at a European university?

BI campus

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

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

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

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

Where to look for scholarships and where not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

scholarship table

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

inouteureferendum

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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