As countless English universities have so readily pushed their tuition fee ceiling price to £9,000, it hardly comes as a surprise that institutions are encouraging students to study abroad. As more students battle for places in universities which face closure and course acceptance restrictions, the country has to fight the criticism that it is actively driving out its young people.
Spearheading this worrying position is America. In 2003, the number of U.S. students who studied abroad stood at 191,321. By 2017 the Lincoln Commission has outlined bold ambitions to encourage at least 1,000,000 students to travel overseas: an incremental increase of over 50,000 a year. While attending university in foreign countries can offer an abundance of experience and cultural learning, it’s an easy mask for the government to hide behind. It’s a policy of “it’s not my problem, it’s yours” when dumping its underrepresented young people on other countries – and a failure to admit the inadequacies of its own further education system.
It doesn’t get much better in the UK. As English students swallow fees which they have no hope of paying back, twinned with further punishment across the Scottish border, the only escape is in European and Scandinavian education. Mergers and downsizing are beginning to afflict the academic landscape of the UK, a condition which can be seen in Scotland this week as Dundee and Abertay have been pressured to formulate their union. Germany is currently first overall for international student support and the country now offers entire courses in English, without the costly penalty which exists for home students in the UK.
Students are becoming more willing to accept debt in countries which can at least offer more internships and reward schemes. While study in Canada proves expensive, its duty to the role of its students sees its courses partnered with industry and vocational organisations which offer solid placements in varied fields. That feature in the UK may become lost in scary future proposals, akin to the hurried ideas suggested during the Labour Party Conference to close half of British universities.
The push from the government fits in with the promotion of globalisation, as knowledge of international markets is becoming ever more important in understanding the way countries are tied together. Yet the trend will still favour the elite, as students from poorer backgrounds continue to find themselves sidelined (200,000 this year), forcing them into foreign study as a means of recourse.
Obviously, the problem lies in the UK’s priorities and management. Swedish education is free for home students, EU/EEA and Swiss Citizens, and university policy is created and amended alongside undergraduates as part of student democracy. This view on collaborative education, funded and offered equally to all who apply, is a refreshing method in an austere zeitgeist. The UK can only look towards its own inadequacies and the recurrent protests against the marketisation of education are a step towards saving the sinking education ship. So as glamorous as studying abroad may be, perhaps we should look towards solving our problems as opposed to running away from them.