We are hosting an open evening for students interested in studying abroad in the next few years.
If you are in the north east of England and would like to learn more, please register for our event online.
We will be joined by representatives of BI Norwegian Business School who will be able to share the experience of their international students.
If you have any questions at all about how to study abroad, this would be an excellent chance for you to get answers. If you are only just starting out on the journey and trying to decide whether this might be something for you, then you are also more than welcome to attend. The event has almost reached capacity so if you are interested in coming along, we advise you to sign up right away.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Many policy initiatives in the area of international higher education aim to achieve outbound mobility for 50% of all students. The German government has announced a target of 50% of its local students to take part in international education and here in the UK, many universities have announced similar targets, most notably De Montfort University. While it is encouraging to note that such initiatives are usually backed by additional financial support for students (or an acknowledgment that it will be necessary to achieve their goals) there are still a number of problems involved in aiming for such an arbitrary target.
Firstly, what constitutes international experience and is it meaningful in an educational context? To reach this target it will be natural to include all manner of international experience; DMU mentions anything from a four-week language course upwards. While there is almost certainly a benefit to any prolonged period of time abroad, is it sensible to think that this will lead to a greater appreciation of life in another country or indeed anything beyond a cursory evaluation of another culture? The same argument can also apply to a full academic year abroad if it does not allow students to integrate fully into the life of a host university or company, in the case of work experience. For an individual university there is also the issue of managing sufficient partnerships to avoid recreating its own classrooms on foreign soil. In the case of DMU the ultimate plan is to send 11,000 students abroad; this will require a huge number of institutional partners. These arguments are well-known and well-rehearsed amongst professionals in the field of international higher education so does this mean that within every 50% target there is a tacit agreement about how much should be made up of students who go for a full year or more, or those who go for less than a month and how many should go to any one partner university at any one time?
Also, those students who go fully international for their education do not tend to show up in any recorded statistics and can fall between the cracks if they are not registered with an educational institution in their own country and/or receiving government financial support. It could therefore be that the amount of students internationally mobile lies somewhere between 0 and 100% of young people not in domestic higher education or otherwise accounted for.
Secondly, why 50%? Which half of the student population would not benefit from international higher education or couldn’t be persuaded to spend some time abroad? The poorest? The most male?
We spend a huge amount of time advising young people in the United Kingdom on the possibility of studying abroad for all or part of their undergraduate study. While there is undoubtedly a growth in interest and willingness to consider studying abroad I doubt we could say that 50% of young people are enthused by this possibility. Would it not be better to focus on those students who are actually interested in going abroad and providing them with suitable options and/or financial support? A 50% target can only be the result of a governmental or institutional perspective, one that is prescriptive in its attitude to students’ needs. If international higher education is a genuinely good thing, and I firmly believe it is, shouldn’t we just be focussing on helping those students who show an interest rather than shoehorning as many people as necessary into meeting an arbitrary target? If higher education wishes to address an issue relating to international student mobility wouldn’t it be better to target this:
Why this difference? Females account for 63.5% of all people who study abroad while males 36.5%