More private school pupils flock to overseas universities

The Telegraph, 25/10/14, a survey of private school headmasters carried out by Maastricht University in the Netherlands finds that more pupils are considering taking degrees abroad. HMC Chairman Richard Harman, Headmaster of Uppingham School and HMC member Keith Budge, Headmaster of Beadales School are quoted.

Increasing numbers of pupils from leading private schools are taking university courses overseas because of concerns over rising tuition fees in the UK.

A survey of members of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, which represents 260 top fee-paying schools, found evidence of a significant shift towards international universities.

According to figures, nine-in-10 heads have seen an increase in students wanting to study overseas over the last three years. Some 84 per cent are actively encouraging pupils to include international universities in their options, it emerged.

It marks a major shift since the introduction of higher tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year for the first time in 2012.

The study, which was commissioned by Maastricht University in the Netherlands, found that a rise in domestic tuition fees was the biggest driver of overseas study, followed by increased awareness of opportunities and an attempt to enhance students’ career prospects.

The United States is often seen as the most popular destination for students studying outside the UK, with 9,500 crossing the Atlantic for higher education courses last year. But courses in mainland Europe are now also increasingly popular, with more teenagers taking degrees in countries such as Holland, France, Germany and Sweden.

Universities in Canada and Australia are also growing in popularity, it emerged.

But the study said heads believed more should be done to encourage overseas study in the country generally, particularly in the state system. More than half claimed that careers advisers failed to promote international universities enough and a similar number believed students taking domestic degrees should be given more opportunity to spend part of their course abroad.

Richard Harman, chairman of HMC and headmaster of Uppingham School, said: “For many decades students studying languages at university have expected and looked forward to a period of study abroad. In recent years the value of this experience had become recognised as something from which all undergraduates can benefit.”

Bedales School, Hampshire, now sends almost one-in-10 pupils to universities abroad, including those in Italy, Holland, Canada and the US.

Keith Budge, the headmaster, said: “At Bedales we encourage our students to consider all university options – in particular to look at overseas universities especially in North America and Europe, and we are certainly seeing more demand from our students for this.

“Also, for the majority going on to a UK university, we promote the massive benefits of spending some time abroad; there is no doubt that these experiences improve students’ employability.”

Prof Martin Paul, president of Maastricht University, where the number of UK undergraduates has more than doubled in the past three years, said: “While the message is getting through to students that studying abroad can significantly improve employability, there continues to be a need to provide more opportunities and information. Maastricht University has been a trend-setter in enhancing international career prospects by stimulating student mobility, and we welcome other European universities to join this strategy.”

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