Margo is currently studying at the University of Vienna on the UCL Erasmus program
Following the coalition government’s rise in tuition fees in 2011, many British students have sought alternative destinations for higher education, a popular option being to cross the channel.
The European university system is so appealing for British applicants for a number of reasons. Tuition fees for instance, often do not exceed £2500 with some countries such as Denmark having no fees whatsoever. The admissions process may also be favourable. In some EU countries such as Vienna, most prospective students are accepted provided they meet the minimum language requirements and are in possession of a secondary school diploma. The competition UK applicants face at home may be reduced significantly when applying abroad.
In recent years, the Netherlands has become an attractive destination for international students looking to complete a degree, as many universities offer both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees taught in English. In 2012, 46% of students at Maastricht University came from an international background. The number of British students, in particular, is astounding, having risen from 469 before the rise in fees, to 819 the year after. Lund University in Sweden experienced similar increases in UK applicants since the £9000 tuition fee rise. According to Richard Stenelo, Head of International Marketing and Recruitment at Lund University, there were ’639 applications this year compared to 558 last’, resulting in a 15% increase over the past academic year alone.
Although the steady increase in UK applicants can be attributed to the rise in fees, some students seek non-UK universities for other reasons. The opportunity to immerse oneself in an entirely different setting and culture not only has linguistic advantages, but also encourages personal development. In the BIS Motivations and Experiences of UK Students Studying Abroad study, published in 2010, 87% of the interviewed British students studying abroad saw studying outside the UK as an opportunity for a unique adventure, and 68.7% rated the experience as being very important in the first step towards an international career.
There are however, some disadvantages to studying abroad. At the University of Vienna, the provision of smaller tutorial groups is limited and there is overcrowding in most lecture theatres due to the high admissions quota. Furthermore students are given the chance to re-sit their exams up to four times, in extremely relaxed conditions. I study within the German philology department and my exams were composed of lecture and presentation titles. Students around me quite literally jotted down what they could remember. This stands in stark contrast to the standard students have come to expect at UK universities.
It is worth noting that a combined half of the QS top-100 universities are either in North America or in the UK. Furthermore, according to the Times Higher Education, the number of UK universities in their top 100 is only two away from equaling all EU institutions. There is a definite suggestion therefore that despite the lower fees offered by EU universities, they cannot yet compete with UK universities.