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.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under International Higher Education, Scholarships and financial aid, Uncategorized

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Brexit, International Higher Education, Scholarships and financial aid, study abroad advice, Uncategorized

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Brexit, dutch universities, Higher Education, International Higher Education, Student Mobility

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?

Leave a comment

Filed under Student Mobility, study abroad advice, Study Abroad Facts, Uncategorized

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Higher Education, International Higher Education, Uncategorized

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

Leave a comment

Filed under dutch universities, International Higher Education, Student Mobility, Study Abroad Facts

#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.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Higher Education, Student Mobility

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under dutch universities, International Higher Education, study abroad advice