In an article in the Sunday Times, 10/03/13, Sian Griffiths reports on the increasing numbers of students going to overseas universities, quoting four HMC schools.
Independent school heads report a surge in interest among high-flyers for degrees abroad, partly because of higher fees in the UK, but also because American universities are better resourced. Some report a doubling in numbers in the past year to one in 10 sixth-formers applying abroad.
Pupils, educated to believe careers will increasingly be international, also want to mark themselves out to employers as capable of working overseas. Some are attracted by incentives such as world-class sporting facilities or a network of alumni who can arrange work experience almost anywhere in the world.
“The interest in American universities has grown strongly here,” said Katy Ricks, headmistress of Sevenoaks School in Kent, where a quarter of its 200-strong sixth form have applied to study in America this year.
Last year two students rejected offers from Cambridge for Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania. Another turned down an offer to study English at Oxford to go to Yale.
“The top end of our range are looking globally,” said Ricks. “There are a small group of brilliant students who are choosing between Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge and Oxford, and it is no longer a given that they will choose the British option.”
Last week the most recent world rankings for higher education revealed that from Britain only Oxford and Cambridge were still in the top 10 universities worldwide. Seven of the 10 were American, including Harvard which topped the table. The number of British institutions in the top 100 fell by three to nine compared with 2011.
Last year the number of students going to American universities from Harrow doubled to 20, while at St Paul’s School in London it rose to 19 out of 180 boys this year. “As British universities charge higher fees, American ones look almost the same in terms of cost,” said Andy Mayfield, director of admissions.
At Latymer Upper School, nearly 20 have applied abroad this year; at Charterhouse in Godalming, Surrey, nine were accepted by US universities last year. Eton sent 25 boys to US universities in 2012, up from 19 the year before.
Richard Cairns, headmaster of Brighton College, said: “In our current lower sixth, the numbers have jumped to 17 planning to sit SATs [the standardised admission test for US universities] and we envisage 12 of these will go.”
Over the past five years there has been a 9% rise in UK students heading to America, about half of whom are undergraduates. In 2010-11, Harvard experienced a 41% increase in applications from Britain, with Yale a 23% jump. The University of Pennsylvania observed a 50% rise in applications and noted that the calibre of applicants was particularly strong.
A Harvard spokesman confirmed the upward trend and said: “Given Harvard’s very strong financial aid programme, most UK students from low and middle incomes will likely pay no more to send their students to Harvard than to a UK university, if you include meals and accommodation in addition to tuition fees.”
The university has set up a net price calculator for students to work out their potential eligibility for aid, at npc.fas.harvard.edu. It has also created a website specially for British students.
Gabriella Lain, 17, who is studying for the international baccalaureate at Sevenoaks and is predicted to gain the equivalent of six A* A-levels, has four offers to study at UK universities but says she would turn them down if her applications for Yale or Harvard succeed.
Maastricht University, which offers degrees taught in English and charges £1,600 in annual fees, said it had seen an 80% rise in the number of UK students in the past year.
By Sian Griffiths, Education Editor, Sunday Times. Click here to read the article © Sunday Times