Tag Archives: Study in Europe

Brexit Update: things we have learned about our future outside the European Union.

It might seem a little perverse to choose the day before the general election to write an update on the implications of Brexit on British outbound student mobility. However, I think it is reasonably safe to assume that there will be no change in the direction of travel as a result of tomorrow’s vote. It would be nice to think there might be a change in tone but that is probably also too much to ask.

Since our last post on the subject, we have been trying to find out if our initial assessment might not have been too gloomy. It probably wasn’t but I think we can see some areas of encouragement for British students at both the EU and the national level.

In its list of demands for Phase One of the Brexit negotiations, the European Parliament laid down its so-called red lines for the negotiations. We missed it at the time but following a webinar today with the European University Association, it appears that discussion on the rights of EU nationals in the UK (as well as UK nationals in the rest of the European Union) does not only extend to those who are currently abroad. It is the parliament’s assertion that anyone born before the exit date (ie. most likely 1st April 2019 at the earliest) should be guaranteed the rights of EU membership for the rest of their lives. If this is correct, it means that anyone British currently alive, or soon to be born, should be able to access European higher education on the same basis as any other EU citizen. This could potentially protect British students from any change of status midway through their studies.

Obviously, this is a starting point in the negotiation no matter that it might be described as a red line. If this proposal were to be accepted it would more or less mean that the limit on free movement wouldn’t come into effect for decades yet. This is hardly going to appeal to the huge majority of leave voters who cannot articulate a reason for Brexit’s necessity beyond “taking back control” of British borders. Still, it is not as if the other objectives of Brexit can be achieved either, being as they are largely the fault/responsibility of domestic politics.

At a national level, we have been able to establish that there is one country where fees for British students will be the same whatever the outcome of the Brexit process. And those fees will be zero. German universities do not charge fees for international students no matter where they come from, although this might change in certain Bundeslaender. I believe Baden-Wuerttemburg might be considering introducing international fees but we have been advised that this will not be happening any time soon in Bavaria, for example.

There aren’t many Bachelor’s degrees taught in English at German universities and those that are tend to be in strategically important STEM subjects. Germany is keen that its international students stick around after graduation – this sentence will make improbable reading to anyone following UK discussions about immigration. Although entry requirements can be quite hard to meet with A’ levels, there are now some very good options available at universities such as the Technical University of Munich and Deggendorf University of Applied Sciences.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Brexit, Higher Education, International Higher Education, International Higher Education Policy, Student Mobility, Study Abroad Facts, 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized