Is an Essay Crisis So Bad If You Do Your Degree Abroad?
The Daily Telegraph UK
By Radhika Sanghani
March 16, 2017
When Lizzie Roberts graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in history and politics in 2015, like many millennials she decided to continue her education. Her plan was to complete an MA in Journalism, only instead of joining her peers in applying for a British institution, she settled on Aarhus University, in Denmark’s second largest city.
“It was a lot cheaper to study there because I pay 8,000 euros for a two-year programme, as opposed to 10,000 for one year in London,” explains the 24-year-old. “I was a bit apprehensive because I’ve never been to Scandinavia before, but I fell in love with it. It’s so progressive, they seem to be doing everything right – it’s the home of hygge – and my course includes semesters at Berkeley in the US, and a year in Amsterdam. I’m six months in, and they’ve probably been the best of my life.”
The course is taught in English (Roberts has so far only learnt the Danish word ‘tak’ for ‘thank you’), but she is confident the experience will help her get a job back in the UK:
Roberts is part of a growing number of young people eschewing British universities in favour of higher education abroad. Last year the British council found there was an eight per cent rise in UK students attending US universities alone, while a recent report from leading study abroad programme, AFS, found that 67 per cent of 13 to 18 year-olds surveyed craved the “cultural experience” of living abroad.
For Generation Z, the top destinations were English-speaking countries such as the US and Australia, as well as Western European countries such as Germany and France. Global degree search engine StudyPortals also noticed a 52 per cent rise last year in visitors browsing undergraduate courses in the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark.
For many students the appeal is the “progressive” nature of these countries, as well as the lower costs. At Maastricht University in the Netherlands, which has courses on par with Russell Group universities, annual fees start at £1,540 – a huge contrast to Britain’s £9,000 a year.
Yet with the uncertainties surrounding Brexit, students fear that Britain’s departure from the EU will leave them unable to take advantage of discounted fees. Though little is expected to change during the next two years of negotiations, Maastricht University recently stated its fees could rise to £6,300 and £8,360 for British students, post-Brexit, while Germany has recently introduced fees for non-EU students at some universities.
Erasmus exchange programs, which have helped over three million students study and work abroad in Europe, could also be affected. Concerns over funding have already led the Liberal Democrats to launch a #SaveErasmus petition which has more than 10,000 signatures.
“Erasmus is a wonderful scheme; it would be a huge shame if students were no longer able to do it because of Brexit,” says Olivia Stephany, a 27-year-old Bristol University graduate who spent a term studying in Siena, Italy, as part of her French and Italian degree. “It gives you the opportunity to learn a new language, meet fascinating people from other countries and really broaden your horizons.”
Dr Kat Cohen, CEO and founder of IvyWise, a leading international firm helping students with university admissions, believes that Brexit could mean more British students choosing American universities instead of their European counterparts.
“Already 40 per cent of the UK students who go abroad for university end up in the US — by far the number one location that UK students choose to go if they are studying abroad,” she says. “I could see that number increase, especially if UK students are no longer able to study in any EU member state for the same price as that country’s residents.”
Dr Cohen, who is now expanding to London due to the demand for students hoping to attend Ivy League schools, believes studying abroad can be a huge benefit for students in terms of broadening their views, improving language skills and making them more attractive to future employers.
Still, she stresses that students must consider the amount of extra work needed for a British student to attend a US college – from ‘hard factors’ such as standardised tests and high grade averages, to ‘soft factors’ such as extracurricular activity requirements.
“It does require a lot of extra work,” says Debbie Dreyfuss, an NYU graduate from North London. She applied to American universities whilst studying at Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls in Hertfordshire, after being encouraged by her father and older siblings who all studied across the Atlantic and lauded the flexible education system.
“I had a place at Nottingham University to study History and Ancient History but I chose NYU because it seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity,” explains Dreyfuss, 27. “Instead of just going to New York for a couple of weeks on holiday, I could live there. There was also the benefit of taking different majors.”
Yet the reality was more challenging than she anticipated: “I didn’t really know how to play the system when it came to choosing classes, and my first year seemed almost pointless in that I had to take a lot of ‘intro’ classes that I felt I’d already covered in school. The culture shock was also quite hard, and I missed the independence I had in the UK.”
Four years after graduating, she now works as a development manager for Epic Foundation, a non-profit start up back in London, and believes it is partly due to her time abroad: “From an education perspective, I’m not sure it was necessarily the right thing for me, but from a life perspective, it has been instrumental in bringing me to where I am now.”