Attitudes to studying abroad have changed in recent years as more UK students consider this option as part of their undergraduate study.
However, we now find ourselves in very uncertain times. The Covid 19 crisis will undoubtedly affect student mobility worldwide for courses starting in 2020 and beyond. Added to this, the continuing uncertainty about the impact of Brexit on students poses a challenge for anyone contemplating study in Europe. The key to making an informed decision about studying abroad is to research your options carefully and check UK government advice about travelling overseas.
For those who are prepared to face these challenges, the good news for UK students is that there are thousands of degrees taught in English in English-speaking countries and increasingly in other countries where English is not the first language. It’s also worth noting that an increasing number of countries, including the US, France, the UK and Australia, operate international branch campuses. For example, if you fancy studying your whole degree in China you can now do so at a campus run by The University of Nottingham at its Ningbo campus.
Bachelor’s degrees across the EU and much of the western world tend to be of a comparable standard. However, the length of degree courses can vary; in many countries, a four-year undergraduate honours degree is the norm. Less stringent entry requirements at many overseas universities, compared with the UK, can make study overseas an attractive and realistic option; but be warned that you may be under increased pressure to do well in the first year of the course.
Why study abroad?
The benefits of living and studying in another country are numerous:
- You will experience a different lifestyle, culture and climate.
- You may have the excitement and challenge of participating in sports and activities that you haven’t tried before.
- If you choose to live and study in a non-English speaking country you will have the opportunity to pick up some of the local language.
- Your new cultural experience will help you learn to tolerate differences, recognise and appreciate diversity, acquire new skills and grow as a person in independence, maturity, resourcefulness and initiative.
Overall, the international awareness you will gain from your overseas experience is likely to enhance your long term career prospects.
Cost of studying overseas
It’s important to note that if you intend to study a full degree overseas you will not be entitled to any loans or grants through the UK system of student financial support. You must consider how you will fund your studies before applying. Most students finance their overseas study through a mixture of savings, scholarships and personal loans.
Many countries in Europe now offer courses taught in English where the tuition fees are lower than UK tuition fees. However, whether this will still be the case post-Brexit is still not known. Or you could consider a country where the cost of living is lower than the UK, such as Eastern Europe, South Africa or China. Tuition fees are generally higher in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand but there are other benefits. In the US, for example, some universities offer generous financial support packages and scholarships; in Canada, Australia and New Zealand there are schemes for graduates to stay in the country to work.
Finding a university abroad
1. Consider your priorities, interests and abilities:
- Why do you want to study abroad?
- What do you want to gain from your university experience?
- Are you comfortable in any foreign languages?
- What are your longer term career plans and will these be served by studying abroad? Note: some qualifications don’t transfer easily back to the UK. If you want to return to practise a specific profession in the UK, it’s wise to check the transferability of professional qualifications with the relevant professional body in the UK before deciding to study abroad.
- What kind of lifestyle do you want?
- Do you have any strong extra-curricular interests?
2. Do your research
Once you know what you are aiming for you can set about researching countries, universities and the courses they offer. Start with international and regional rankings at www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/. StudyLink and QS Top Universities are useful sources of information about undergraduate and postgraduate courses worldwide. Eunicas is a portal for UK and EU students to apply for courses taught in English in universities across Europe.
3. Decide which countries interest you most
Make a short list or identify the specific country you want to study in as a starting point for identifying universities you could apply to. Check if there are national organisations, like UCAS in the UK, which provide information and/or advice to overseas applicants.
4. Meet current students
Try to meet people from an overseas university before you apply to it. The Student World is running virtual fairs in September 2020 where you can chat online with top international universities and government agencies. The Fulbright Commission is planning its annual USA College Day in London in September 2020. You could also contact a university’s alumni association to find alumni nearer to home whom you could talk to.
Alternatives to a full degree abroad
If a shorter period of study abroad appeals to you rather than your whole degree you could consider the following options;
- An exchange or study abroad scheme as part of a UK degree. Have a look at Erasmus+ for information about this exchange programme in Europe. Note: current placements in this scheme are guaranteed to 2020 but at the time of writing we do not yet know whether the UK will participate in the next Erasmus+ programme.
- A UK degree course which includes a study abroad year. Look for courses on the UCAS website www.ucas.com with year abroad in the title then ask for details at university open days or contact the study abroad offices at UK universities for further information.
If you study abroad as part of a UK degree you will be entitled to UK student financial support, which may include reduced tuition fees and additional grants and scholarships for your time abroad.