13th July 2016
Five things students should consider if they want to study abroad
In recent years, more UK students have chosen to study overseas and, even after the results of the recent EU referendum, interest in studying abroad doesn’t appear to be waning.
Wherever in the world your students go, they should expect some changes from the system we are used to in the UK. Carrying out thorough research and planning ahead is key to avoiding too many nasty surprises, as even our closest neighbours have some differences in their higher education systems.
The UCAS system is unique. In most countries, students apply direct to their chosen universities. Some countries have partially-centralised application systems, but there’s nothing quite like UCAS, where every undergraduate application is processed in the same way.
2. Entry requirements
UK university offers are all about the grades, whereas US universities might take a more holistic approach, looking to find a match between student and institution. Admissions tests like SAT and ACT are to be expected when applying in the US, so potential applicants will need to practice these multiple-choice papers.
Many European universities offer a more-or-less open door to applicants who’ve completed their upper secondary education. In some cases, particular subjects are required at A level (or equivalent) but grades can be less of an issue. Consequently, students will need to knuckle down and word hard as soon as they start university, so they can demonstrate that they are good enough to stay on into the second year.
If UK students opt for a full degree overseas, then they need to know that their UK student loan will not be going with them. Having said that, some Scottish students may be able to take advantage of the Scottish Government’s Portability Pilot.
Students should consider how they will fund their studies: from savings, part-time work, scholarships, bursaries or financial aid.
UK students in Europe have the right to work and, in some cases, may receive student funding from their host countries. Of course, if the UK Government fails to secure any special deals as the UK disentangles from the EU, these benefits may well disappear.
It is worth remembering that, even if the UK leaves the EU with no special rights and UK students start to be charged international fees, some countries’ fees will still be lower than the £9,000 per year charged in the UK.
4. Teaching and learning
‘I had to learn to write in a more concise way.’
‘I got to choose the way in which I was assessed.’
‘I studied a range of subjects before deciding what I wanted to specialise in.’
Students need to be prepared for a different learning experience. In some cases, this is a major draw for students considering studying abroad, but it can come as a shock. Applicants will need to look closely at the approach their chosen country or university takes before deciding whether to apply there.
5. Student life
Although some universities in Ireland, the Netherlands and the US, for example, share many traits with UK campuses, across much of the world there can be major differences. No halls-of-residence; less of a drinking culture; older students; and fewer clubs and societies are some of the differences experienced by UK students. It is always worth asking university staff or students about student life before taking a leap into the unknown.
Students would be wise not to make too many assumptions about what they will experience during their degree abroad, but with careful research and a few reality checks, studying overseas can end up exceeding expectations and even changing lives.
Read Studying Abroad for all the information you need to decide if studying overseas is right for you.
New edition available 1st September.