Studying overseas

UK students are increasingly considering the option of studying abroad, particularly since the introduction of higher tuition fees.

  • The opportunity for an adventure attracts many students to international study and a period of time spent abroad has also become a valuable addition to the CV in today’s increasingly difficult graduate employment market.
  • The number of courses taught in English is growing across Europe and the creation of the European Higher Education Area under the Bologna Process has made universities on the continent a much more credible alternative to studying at home. Universities in the US, Australia and Asia are also keen to recruit English students and international league tables can provide a good starting point when it comes to researching universities around the globe.
  • With UK institutions now able to charge up to £9,000 per year for courses, the cost of studying at home is no longer even significantly less than the cost of choosing to go abroad to countries such as Australia, the US and Canada. In fact, a HSBC survey conducted in October found that even taking into account two return flights a year, a student would pay just £100 more per year to study in Canada compared with the UK. According to the study, opting for Australia or the US would cost students about £4,000 more per annum than the £15,600 it calculated was the average cost of tuition, living expenses and accommodation in the UK.
  • In contrast, HSBC said Germany was the least expensive study destination, putting costs at just over £4,200 per year, with France next on the list of affordable destinations with an annual cost of about £5,300.
  • Looking at the figures, it would seem like studying in Europe was a bit of a no-brainer financially. Why graduate with close to £50,000 worth of debt if you can escape with £15,000 just by hopping across to the continent?

Aside from the fact there is more to consider than just finances — language, course availability and an institution’s reputation also play a big part in determining where to take a degree — the comparison isn’t quite as clear cut as it seems.

  • While on the face of it a number of European countries appear to be cheaper places to study, in most countries there are no student loans available to UK students to cover the costs. Students who study at a UK institution are able to access loans that will cover both their tuition fees and their living costs. So although the overall cost may be higher than in some countries in the EU, the upfront cost is much lower.
  • A survey carried out by Graduate Prospects in 2012 found that while almost three-quarters of students were considering studying at a university abroad, 27% were worried about the financial implications. 

However, it isn’t primarily the idea of saving money that drives students to consider looking outside the UK for an education.

  • In fact, the Graduate Prospects survey found that for 33% the main motivation was actually an appetite for adventure. A further 26% cited a desire to build an international career.
  • A growing awareness among young people of the importance of international exposure was also recently noted by a British Council study, which found that one-third of UK adults that had not spent time living or studying abroad felt that it had harmed their career prospects. Among the under-25 age group, 54% believed that a lack of global experience was holding them back.

The challenge for those looking to broaden their horizons then is to find a way to fund it and there are a number of options.

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