Earlier today I spoke on BBC Radio Wiltshire about comments I had made last week, reported in the Huffington Post, about the growing interest we have noted at school in universities abroad. There has been a resurgence of interest amongst our students in US universities, particularly on the East Coast of the United States, and a growing and significant interest in European universities which teach in English, so much so that we have reorganised our staffing and are in the process of creating a role which specifically supports students applying abroad.
There are many reasons for this growth in interest, not the least of which are very practical logistical reasons – with the squeeze on university places in this country, it makes sense to have a broader approach to applications, and look beyond our national boundaries. Moreover, with the advent of higher tuition fees, the difference between the cost of an education in the UK and the US is greatly reduced, especially when you take into account the financial aid which is often on offer. At Yale, Harvard and Princeton, for instance, between 50% and 60% of students receive financial aid, and the average annual cost of courses after receiving these grants is less than $20,000 as a result. European universities such as Maastricht can be significantly cheaper – around 3000 Euros – and this can be offset quite considerably by taking paid work with the university, as a Student Ambassador, for instance. There are of course living expenses on top … but this is the case wherever you are in the world, and would-be students should definitely look beyond this hurdle.
Perhaps the most important reason to my mind for why students should actively look at universities abroad, however, is that it encourages a global outlook. This is a truly global world in which we live – young people today will either end up working abroad at some point, or will without doubt have to deal with international customers, and it is really important that they gain some kind of international experience and understanding. I also believe that living abroad at some point, with other people, in a different culture with a different way of viewing the world, is essential to help us all to understand one another as fellow human beings – different but the same at heart – and if we can do that, then we all start to help make the world a better place.
So – I encourage all students to think about studying outside the UK, even if only as a year abroad as part of their university course based in the UK. Our young people are our future – they need to see the world, live with other people, and learn to respect other cultures. They are the ones who will make the positive change in attitudes that we need to overcome intolerance. They need to get out there and experience it. An exciting – and both broadening and grounding – journey awaits them.