Study abroad at uni

A guide to studying abroad: the why, the how and the how much...

Guide to studying abroad

Results recently published in The Times Higher Education Magazine show that, according to 13,388 academics spread across 131 countries, UK unis come second only to ones in the US in terms of ‘reputation’, with 12 institutions appearing in the top 100 list.

So why are there more British students than ever before heading to universities outside of the UK instead? The Guardian recently reported that the number of students taking British degrees overseas has overtaken the number of foreign students at UK universities, growing at least 70% within the last 10 years and last year a record number, 22,000, were studying for degrees abroad.



There are many reasons for students to wish to continue their studies abroad - one of the main being the wealth of experience that would come from being educated outside of the UK. Aside from the opportunity to get involved in different programmes, there are, of course, the more lifestyle-orientated benefits.

Immersion in another culture will really broaden life experience. Getting used to a new way of life may be difficult at first but those learning abroad are bound to gain loads of transferable skills (such as independence and organisation), developed during time spent away from more familiar territory.

And those are the kinds of skills that potential employers are sure to lap up. Adapting to a new culture is the sort of thing that increases employability - particularly if you've had to use another language to get by.

And let's face it. There are worse things than living abroad for some of the most exciting years of your life!


Studying abroad is not always the cheapest option. Those considering it need to take the potential cost of visas, flights, accommodation, general living into account as well as tuition fees. BUT - and this is a big but - with the prospect of rising tuition fees in the UK (Oxbridge and Imperial have already upped theirs to £9,000), the appeal of fleeing the country to study elsewhere understandably becomes greater.

The Observer recently profiled 19-year-old Theresa Bullock, a student in her first year at Maastricht University in the Netherlands - an institution that is said to be comparable to most Russell Group unis. The computer science student’s tuition fees work out at about £1,450 a year and with a part-time job on-the-go too, it looks like Bullock may be able to return to the UK with no debt whatsoever. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Depending on where you go and what you study, there might also be the chance to get financial support from your chosen institution or a loan/scholarship/scheme back in the UK.

Language skills:

There are an increasing number of unis in non English-speaking countries which teach in English but you’ll need to have some competence in the language before arriving - if only for your own confidence when settling in. In fact, many institutions will require candidates to take a language proficiency test before they are accepted onto a course.

Learning another language is likely to give you a significant competitive edge over other prospective job candidates. As well as a willingness to learn and the ability to develop a skill alongside your normal course of study, It shows adaptability, an understanding of international communication and an ability to build relationships in other countries - all valuable traits in the workplace - especially in the world of business.

What next?

Full degree study:

For those wanting to spend their whole time in higher education abroad, deciding on where to study deserves a lot of thought. There are many things to consider, including cost, language, entry requirements and, of course, where you actually want to go.

The key is research. And the earlier, the better. Annoyingly enough, there’s generally no central system like UCAS elsewhere so planning  to study abroad can be a time-consuming process, even when you know what you want to do and where you want to go. Having said that, there are a wealth of online resources to help you on your way.

For those looking at uni places in Europe, Your Europe is probably the best place to start, giving browsers links to university systems in different countries. For those looking to go further afield, check out UKCISA, as it provides country-specific links to organisations for international students. From these sources you should be able to locate most of the practical stuff you need to consider, including entry requirements and whether you’re going to need to take a language exam before submitting an application.

It is also important that you check the relevant embassiesfor guidance on regulations and what sort of visa you might need to apply for.

Not sure what qualification you might end up with? Enic-naric is a really good website to put worrying minds at rest, as it allows prospective students to check the recognition of foreign degrees.

Part degree study:

Many students don’t wish to go the whole hog and spend the whole duration of their university life away from home and instead opt to study only part of their course abroad. This is generally organised through the university at which students are currently studying or are due to enrol in, back in the UK.

Erasmus: The Erasmus scheme (part of the European Union’s Lifelong Learning Programme), gives students the chance to study for part of their degree in one of 30 other countries across Europe. If you know you want to get involved before starting uni, you can use the The UK Course Guide to find out what institutions offer in terms of the scheme.

If you’re already at uni and want to find out about potential Erasmus schemes available to you, arrange a time to meet with your local Erasmus co-ordinator, who will be able to direct you further.

IAESTE: Students can also take advantage of those long summer holidays but enrolling in work experience schemes such as the IAESTE  (International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience) programme. Undergraduates in science, engineering, technology and architecture can apply for PAID, course-related programmes which normally last about six to 12 weeks.

Click here for a step-by-step guide on how to apply for an internship with IAESTE.

Universitas 21: Universitas 21 is an international network of 23 unis in 15 different countries. The aim of the initiative is to bring together research-intensive unis across the world to collaborate and research.

Four UK unis are currently members of the U21 network: Birmingham, Nottingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Students at these unis can look into taking part in exchanges, summer schools, research conferences, joint PhDs and other research projects.

Find out more about what each university offers via their individual websites or read up on undergraduate and postgraduate opportunities with U21, here.

Uni-specific programmes: Don’t forget to ask at the International Office of your university - you might be able to take advantage of an exchange that your uni has arranged with a particular institution!

How much?

Full degree study:

For those looking to go abroad for the duration of their whole degree or post-grad qualification, there isn’t generally a set fee. You’ll need to take into account the cost of living, flights and visas as well as uni fees.

Skyscanner recently published an insightful article about the best places for Brits to save on tuition fees. India came out on top, with low living costs, decent flight prices and average annual fees of just £230 at Karnataka’s Institute of Science. Belgium is also up there as a popular destination for learning in the English language, while China offers the chance to learn and practice Mandarin - a particularly valuable language to speak in the developing business world of China.

Maastricht University in the Netherlands also keeps its tuition fee costs down due to Dutch subsidies and they’re seeing a rise in UK applicants as well as, The Observer reports, universities in Valencia and Milan.

Once you know where you'd like to spend your time abroad, you can check out what sort of funding might be available to you by visiting  UKCISA. There you will find instructions on how to go about looking for potential support from the UK and even your host country.

Part degree study:

Erasmus:  Erasmus students receive a grant from the EU. The current grant is €225 per month but students normally receive more, after a second installment is made. The Erasmus website currently states that over the last three years, UK students have received a grant of around €400 a month.

Remember though, you’ll need to take care of your own travel arrangements, insurance and visas so be sure to add up the costs of all the practical stuff before applying.

Universitas 21: Those on the U21 Student Exchange Programme do not have to pay any extra tuition fees. You are however, required to continue paying your home uni tuition fees during their time away.

Check with the U21 department at your home uni to find out about scholarships or loans that may be available to you.


Unfortunately you’ll have to pay £100 for your placement on an IASTE course (groan) as well as flights, insurance and visas but the silver lining is that you willget paid for your work out there. Rates vary according to destination but trainees will receive enough to cover the local cost of living.

There are a few £200 grants available to those travelling to some of the further destinations but the places that offer these are not listed until offers are made.

If you have any experiences or tips from your time studying abroad, let us know using the comments box below!