With this September seeing the debut of £9,000 tuition fees across the UK, are future freshers being faced with a choice? Fee or flee?
Back in 2010, a mere 21 votes enabled Vince Cable to assure the nation’s youth that the £9,000 fees would apply only in ‘exceptional circumstances.’ Within two years however, sixty nine universities have upped their fees to £9,000 and many others have capped tution at £8,500 meaning the average eighteen year old undertaking a three-year course within the next six weeks can expect to graduate with between forty and fifty thousand pounds worth of debt.
UCAS statistics reveal that the number of applicants in 2012 has fallen by nearly 7,000 from 2011. While a 9% drop may not seem excessive in relation to the almost trebling of tuition fees, interesting trends are germinating that have given rise to the phrase ‘tuition fee refugee’.
Cross-border movement is the first contingency many have undertaken. Dublin’s Trinity College, for example, are charging tuition fees of £3,431 per year for most courses within which a student contribution of £2,250 is expected. They have seen a 20% jump in applications from British students in 2012 to total almost 2,000. Furthermore, University College Dublin (UCD), whose fees align with Trinity College, have had 37% more British students apply for the 2012/2013 academic season.
While applying to an institution in Ireland may seem a relatively convenient financial and geographical option, many prospective students are exploring other options further afield. Students before and throughout their university career are encouraged to consider options which will add to their CV, including taking a gap year, often abroad, or a placement, which, with the growing popularity of schemes such as Erasmus, are becoming increasingly based outside of the UK. However, an emerging trend seems to be almost a compilation of these opportunities for a fraction of the cost – studying abroad.
Established in 2006, A Star Future are a British company who provide a free advisory service and information to British students, mostly between the ages of 16 and 18, about international higher education opportunities. Mark Huntington, Founder of A Star Future, said that ‘tuition fees are affecting everybody’ and since the introduction of the £9,000 fees, students for the first time ever are
‘primarily motivated now by employment opportunities.’
At the moment, Huntington relayed, it is ‘still a small percentage of people going abroad’ and for those ‘wanting to anyway, the fees played right into their hands’ but increasingly, the option is seen by students as a way of ‘differentiating themselves from their UK peers’.
With Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden offering a combined total of 58 institutions who teach in English and don’t charge for tuition, it would not be surprising if more British students explored studying internationally purely for financial reasons. However, A Star Future say they ‘don’t believe you should go abroad just to save money and there are lots of other reasons why studying abroad is a good idea.’ With employers increasingly seeking multi-lingual candidates and the universal importance of independence and the confidence to undertake challenges outside of the comfort zone, studying abroad appeals on more than a financial level.
Available to view on AStarFuture.co.uk a selection of student testimonials offer a positive insight into their experience.
Megan Doxford, a first year Bsc Biology student at Universitetet I Nordland in Norway suggests that the opportunity has been far more than just about saving on tuition fees. When asked if she would recommend studying abroad to a 17-18 year old Brit who may not have considered it before, she replied
‘I would recommend it 110%! It has been a life changing experience so far, and it keeps getting better! Life as an international student is excellent. Whether you get the chance to do it for one semester, or for three years like me, go for it!.. Within the first month of arriving here, I’d been on fishing trips, hiking trips, wizzing around in a little rib boat on the Saltstraumen, swimming in some of the most beautiful lakes which are a 15 minute walk from the University, and even met the Norwegian Prime Minister.’
Christian Garrard from Canterbury, a second year student of LLB International and European Law at University of Groningen has thoroughly enjoyed his experience. When asked if he would recommend his course, university, city to British studens, he maintained
‘Absolutely, it’s a degree just as good if not better than many universities in the UK but at a fraction of the price.’
The student voice was undoubtedly loud and clear back in 2010 outside the gates of Westminster. However, if increasing numbers of teens opt to study outside of the UK, those voices may fade to echoes as bags are packed, planes are boarded and cheaper international studies begin.
22nd August 2012