Higher Education Statistics Authority Figures Show Rise in Postgraduate Students Taking Foreign Courses

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27th August 2013 15:51 - Education

Figures from research provided by the Higher Education Statistics Authority suggest that British students are increasingly engaging in a different form of ‘gap year’ following the end of their time at university. Following their undergraduate studies, many UK students are looking to continue their studies  - but are looking to do so at foreign universities, often in the European Union or the European Free Trade Area where education for EU nationals is heavily subsidised.  

Indeed, the most recent data looking at this topic, provided by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa), suggests that at least 1,590 students went outside the UK to continue their education in 2012 – an increase on the proportion from 2011. Among the key driving factors for this is thought to be the amount of money it now costs to study at Masters level or its equivalent – some courses in the UK can cost as much as £41,000 (for instance, an MBA with Oxford University) but are offered free of charge to members of the European Union in countries such as Sweden and Norway; and are much cheaper (in the hundreds of pounds) in places like Paris or the Netherlands for instance.

The reduced cost of studying abroad now also goes hand in hand with the fact that foreign universities are increasingly offering courses which are taught in English – making them far more accessible to British students. Indeed, the number of international institutions, most of which are in Europe, which offer English-language tuition has risen from 560 in 2002 to around 3,700 by 2011. In Finland, there are 246 Masters courses available which are taught in English, compared to around a fifth of that number back in 2007.

The Chief Executive of Graduate Prospects, Mike Hill, suggested in his comments on the subject that the move towards studying abroad could be helpful for British students, as graduate employers are increasingly looking for international experience from applicants – it can be seen as a crucial element which may set a candidate apart in an increasingly global world. Mr Hill stated that the number of university graduates taking this route should not be blown ‘out of proportion’, but called it a ‘significant minority’ who would have an ‘advantage in the recruitment market afterwards.’

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