Dec 14, 2012— read in full
Studying a university course abroad
If you’ve got your sights set on studying at a university abroad, read our guide to make sure you’re setting off in the right direction.
Should I study at a university abroad?
Different skills, different experiences, different weather – there are a lot of reasons why many students want to study at universities outside of the UK. But there are lots of things – from how to fund it to dealing with homesickness – that make studying abroad a much different challenge as well.
Certain courses at universities in the UK – such as modern languages and some business courses for example – might be a sandwich course, which means you will study one year abroad during your degree. Arrangements for this will be made with your university. However, if you want to study an entire course at a foreign university, you’ll need to do the vast majority of planning yourself, normally starting about two years in advance of applying.
Where could I study?
This is almost entirely up to you, depending on what you want to study and where you would like to go. Start by looking at the websites of foreign universities, and when you’ve found a few you’re interested in, contact them for information. You could also get in touch with a country’s embassy in the UK and organisations like the British Council and UKCISA for more help and advice.
But you’ll also need to consider a lot of other things beyond where just looks nice, including:
- Language: almost all university courses will be taught in the country’s native language, although a few European universities do offer courses taught in English. That’s not a problem in an English-speaking country like the USA or Australia, but if you want to study somewhere else you’ll have to be fluent in the language to get accepted on the course. And even if you are studying a course in English, you’ll need to know the native language just to get by in everyday life.
- Visas and insurance: EU citizens have the right to live, work and study anywhere in the EU without restrictions. If you want to study elsewhere, you’ll probably have to apply for a student visa, which might limit things like how long you can stay and the type of jobs you can get there. And although you’ll hopefully get nothing more serious than homesickness, you’ll also need medical insurance just in case you get something a call home can’t cure.
- Money: although things like the cost of living and tuition fees might be cheaper abroad, studying at a foreign university might be more expensive in the short-term than in the UK, because you won’t qualify for any financial support from the government. Some foreign universities might have bursaries or financial support packages for international students, but in many cases you’ll have to save up and fund your course yourself. Some countries will also require you to have a certain amount of money before you can enter the country, to prove you can support yourself. You’ll also need to think about opening a bank account in the country, to save yourself expensive transfer and withdrawal fees.
- Qualifications: a qualification from a foreign university could be highly valued by employers in the UK, since it proves independence and the initiative to adapt to different environments as well as academic ability. However, not every qualification will be recognised outside of the country where it was awarded, so you need to check this beforehand to make sure you don’t return with lots of stories but a worthless piece of paper. You can find more information about this on the UK NARIC website, which lists which foreign qualifications are recognised in the UK.
- Distance: experiencing another culture and stepping out of your comfort zone is one of the big attractions of studying at a foreign university. But you might not want to go too far, not just because it’ll cost you more to get there and back, but also because it’ll make it more difficult for your friends and family to visit you.
How do I apply?
You can’t apply to foreign universities through UCAS, so in most cases you’ll have to contact the universities directly to find out how to apply. Do this early, because you’ll also need to know whether they will recognise your current UK qualifications, or whether you need to study any additional courses or qualifications before you’re eligible. Plus, bear in mind that certain countries – such as the USA – charge students to apply to university, so you’ll need to find about any costs like this in advance.