Applying to University Overseas

Tuition fee increases

When tuition fee increases were approved for the 2012-2013 academic year, tripling the maximum tuition fees for undergraduates to £9,000 per year, shockwaves went through the world of education. In spite of the fact that these fees are not paid up front, as they were under the previous tuition fees system, many still argued that they put higher education out of many people’s reach. Whether or not this is true only time will tell. But what is certain is that the cost of completing a degree in England and Wales has now become a lot, lot more expensive.

Although it certainly is conceivable that the tuition fees increase put off some–possibly many–students from applying to university at all, a bold few took a different response. Rather than giving up, they looked to other shores for their university education. And in doing so they discovered all sorts of intriguing and rewarding possibilities, many of which were much more competitively priced than a British university education now is.

Fulfilling your academic potential

However, students seeking to avoid higher fees in the UK were not the first British students to discover the potential benefits of studying abroad. Although in proportional terms they had until recently only constituted a tiny minority, even before tuition fees were first introduced there were brave souls who spurned the UK university system in favour of studying abroad. Rather than being motivated by money, this bunch saw foreign universities as a better route to allowing them to fulfil their academic and career potential.

And there is certainly a lot of merit to their viewpoint. Completing your university studies abroad may not just be financially advantageous, but also better from an academic, professional and cultural viewpoint. There is a wealth of different student experiences to be had overseas, and in many cases students who have set out in search of them have never looked back.

Financial implications

So if you’re weighing up your higher-education options and either are concerned about the debt burden or just have that feeling you could learn more or enjoy student life more elsewhere, applying to overseas universities is certainly worth considering. Although certainly not for everyone it might just be an inspired decision for many students.

Let’s first look at the different destinations you could look to for your university education. We’ll start closest to home, in the European Union. All British citizens are entitled to pay domestic student fees at public universities within the European Union, which in the vast majority of cases are far cheaper than in the UK. In many European countries, such as Spain, you are charged just a nominal fee of up to a couple of hundred euros, while in some countries, for example Austria, tuition is completely free. With maximum tuition fees of just over “2,000 per year the Netherlands is by some distance the most expensive destination, but even this sum is far less than what an English student would pay.

European countries

As most European countries are outside of the Anglosphere, there are certain language barriers. If you are already fluent in the language of a European country, then this will obviously not apply to you. Some particularly brave individuals have been known to head out with a reasonably good level and then developed their language skills while studying.

At certain European universities, however, it is in fact possible to complete your studies entirely in English. For example, Charles University in Prague, one of Europe’s oldest universities, offers a wide range of programmes in English, as does Utrecht University in the Netherlands, which is regarded as one of the continent’s top academic institutions. Even taking into account the slightly elevated fees that some of these universities charge for their English-language courses, there are still substantial savings to be had. And, of course, Irish universities all run courses in English as standard.

Beyond the European union

Looking beyond the European Union, the most likely destination for students will be an English-speaking country, with the USA and Canada often proving to be the most popular destinations and Australia and New Zealand attracting students who relish the prospect of literally being on the other side of the world from their parents.

All of these countries can boast of having some of the world’s top universities, as well as many other smaller colleges that are academically excellent and specialise in undergraduate teaching rather than research.

Whereas with the European Union the main stumbling block is the language, with these destinations it’s the potential tuition fees. In all of these countries tuition fees can vary very widely from institution to institution, even for domestic students. The US’s best universities are famous for often charging eye-wateringly expensive fees for some courses. And the majority of universities would charge higher rates for international students. While for some courses in some countries these fees could be manageable, for others–especially in the United States–they could be far in excess of standard UK tuition fees.

However, universities in these countries–and again the US especially–tend to be much more generous in their awarding of scholarships and bursaries. The richest universities want only the brightest and best, and they’re willing to cover the tuition fees and even pay some living costs for the right students. So if you’re academically gifted or have something else to offer such as sporting talent, then you could be in the running for a scholarship that actually makes studying in one of these countries cheaper than the UK.

Advantages of studying abroad

Beyond the potential cost advantages of overseas study, there are also some other potential benefits of studying abroad. For example, many foreign universities offer courses that simply don’t exist in the UK, or even give you a much broader range of study options. This is particularly true of North America, where students can take credits in several different courses at once. So if you’re hesitant to commit to just one subject North America could be the place for you.

Studying abroad will also undoubtedly offer you an experience that will both enrich your outlook and make you more attractive to employers in the future. When looking to hire fresh talent, the top companies look on the people who had the courage to cast their net further and wider very favourably. And on a more personal level, mixing with students from another country and immersing yourself in a different society is likely to open your mind more than studying with fellow Brits from roughly the same background as you.

However, it is also important to be aware of the downsides of overseas study. Perhaps most importantly, it is crucial to realise that the overseas student social experience is very likely to be unlike what you’d get at home. Although students across the world like to party, few of them have the free time or the inclination to do it on the same scale as British students. Not only do many foreign university cultures demand more in the way of time spent in lectures and the library, but the universities themselves often lack the vast student union bars and crazy nights that are commonplace over here.

Being homesick

Believe it or not, you might just also start to miss your parents. And whereas in the UK they’d probably just be a train ride away, if you’re abroad you could be looking at several hours of flying to get home. So although studying abroad has the potential to be a fantastic experience, it’s not something you should go into with rose-tinted spectacles or a belief that the grass is always greener on the other side.

If you are interested in learning more about studying overseas, the best place to start is by looking at the web pages of universities based in the countries where you’d be interested in studying. There you’ll find plenty of information on the courses they offer, the fees they charge and what life might be like there for international students.