Erasmus and year abroad exchanges – a nugget of gold for UK students?
With all the media talk of a so-called 'flood' of UK students to European (e.g. Dutch) universities to 'escape' UK tuition fees, the real success in international mobility has actually been achieved by UK universities and students themselves.
The Erasmus programme celebrated 25 years this year with over 200,000 UK students studying or working abroad in the EU as part of their studies since 1987. Opportunities include study or work placements overseas or a 50:50 split between the two. Over 13,000 UK students took part in the Erasmus programme in 2011 alone.
Contrary to popular belief, an Erasmus exchange programme or year abroad is not just for modern languages students. Many students studying Business, Arts, Social Sciences, Life and Health Sciences, Science and Engineering also spend a year abroad or placement year integrated into their degree. In addition to Erasmus within the EU, UK students can undertake exchanges or work placements in over 100 countries around the world.
The Complete University Guide recommends asking questions about opportunities at university open days or searching on university websites for keywords such as Year Abroad Exchanges, Year Abroad, Erasmus or Study Abroad Programme.
The UK government has recently announced further support for UK year abroad students to add to the vastly reduced or zero fees set by many UK universities. Effectively a four year degree involving a year abroad or placement year does not mean four years of fees.
The fee will be around £1,300 or less in 2015 for example when 2012–13 entry students embark on their year. This means that the cost is more like three years of fees for four years of university experience. Year abroad students also qualify for UK government maintenance loans with further support available via schemes such as Erasmus, individual university travel bursaries or salaried work placements.
A year abroad from a UK university can offer the best of both worlds – a global university experience with the added benefits of a UK University education and UK government financial support.