Degree abroad?

Unimpressed by UK unis and their inflated fees? Maybe getting an international degree by studying abroad could be for you.

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Why do a degree abroad?

If you want lower fees and lower entry requirements, widening your academic search to international universities is worth a look. Plus, studying abroad is a great way to explore a new country and make international friends, whilst still getting that all-important degree.

Is it cheaper to study abroad than in the UK?

Yes and no. Tuition in Europe can be totally free, or very cheap in EU countries, although private universities can cost the same as UK universities. But (and it’s a big but), you can’t transfer your student loan to pay for your studies abroad, so you have to pay for everything upfront. Some universities offer scholarships to international students, but competition is fierce and you need to be applying for these at least 12 months beforehand.

Remember, even if you’re not forking out for fees, you have to think about paying for flights, visas, and insurance on top of basic food and accommodation.

Will the degree mean as much as one from a British university?

Just like in the UK, certain universities look better on your CV than others. When you’re choosing, think about what skills you want to learn from your course, and have a look at World University Rankings to see how your favourites compare to their UK counterparts.

Jemma Davies from the Student World says you should think about where you want to work after graduation.

“It’s worth speaking to businesses you’d like to work for and see what skills and qualifications they look for when employing new staff,” she says. “For example, larger, more international businesses may be keener on international degrees than a smaller, local company.”

Will I make friends abroad?

Making new friends at university is always going to be daunting, let alone in a whole new country. But, Sarah, an English masters student at the University of Utrecht, Netherlands, says she found it much easier to make friends than she imagined.

“I guess some factors are in my favour,” she says. “My study programme has a lot of contact hours. We have group and partner assignments, and there’s a culture of eating and getting coffees together at university.”

The best way to make friends – in any country – is to get involved with all the different things going on. Join different societies and take as many opportunities as possible to make friends from all over the world.

What are the downsides to studying abroad?

It can take longer to complete your degree. Both foreign undergraduate and masters courses often take a year longer than UK courses.

Obviously you’ll be further from friends and family, which isn’t great if you’re easily homesick. However, Sarah says modern technology can ease this problem. “With Skype, social media, emails and WhatsApp, you almost forget that you don’t live in the same country,” she says.

A foreign degree may be a bit more challenging, too. Sarah says she found her Dutch masters had more contact hours, assignments, exams, presentations and feedback than her English studies. “I knew the programme would be intense and challenging, and this is why I decided to pursue it,” she says. “I wanted to get the most out of my degree.”

How do you choose a country?

First off, find out which universities teach in English. You don’t want to turn up to a lecture and discover your whole course is in a language you didn’t even know existed. Then check which universities do the subject you’re interested in. Remember certain courses may go under a different name.

The Bachelors portal website lets you search by language and subject for undergrad courses. And you can do the same for masters courses.

Student World also runs the free Student World Fair where you can go and have a chat with representatives from some of the international universities.

How do I apply for a foreign degree?

Without the limiting powers of UCAS you can apply to as many places as you want, but you’ll have to do each university application individually. Give yourself plenty of time and whatever you do, don’t leave it to the last minute. Sometimes you’ll need up to 15 months to complete an application.

So, should I do it?

After her experience at Utrecht, Sarah is quick to encourage others. “I would definitely recommend studying abroad to other students,” she says. “I couldn’t be happier with my decision and I have recommended it to both friends and relatives in the UK.”

If you don’t want to do an entire degree abroad, there are short-term study options you can look into as well.

Photo of studying abroad by Shutterstock.

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015