Opting to study in the UK, Europe and beyond

College Choice: More and more students are broadening their horizons and pursuing courses abroad

The availability of places in continental Europe has seen a growing number of Irish students going there to study after doing the Leaving Cert. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

The availability of places in continental Europe has seen a growing number of Irish students going there to study after doing the Leaving Cert. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

The numbers of students from the Republic choosing to study in the UK has fallen dramatically to about 2,000 in the past three years, since the introduction there of the higher annual tuition fees. Fees in the UK range from £3,000-£9,000 (€3,800- €11,500). Between 400 and 500 students, mainly from Border counties and studying in Northern Ireland, pay fees of £3,575.

No tuition fees are charged to Irish students studying in Scottish universities, which also see 400-500 new students starting their studies each year.

Almost half of those who secured places in 2013 did so in paramedical programmes such as nursing. The most sought-after and difficult to secure places in the Irish CAO system, in medicine, veterinary and dentistry, are just as difficult to secure through Ucas, the UK application system.

In 2013 the success rate for Irish students was very low in medicine (25), veterinary (seven) and dentistry (two). The closing date for applications is January 15th. ucas.com

The availability of places in continental Europe has seen a growing number of Irish students studying there, as the numbers of Irish students applying to Ucas has fallen substantially. Many of the continental European universities are higher ranked than most of our own and there are either no or very low tuition fees.

The trend started 10-12 years ago following their accession to the EU, with the opening-up of veterinary and medical degree programmes in countries such as Hungary and Poland. The annual fees on these are, on average, €10,000.

Overseas training

These universities have trained many Irish veterinary surgeons and medical doctors whose degrees are recognised in all EU countries. For details see studyhungary.hu whose Irish representative is Dr Tim O’Leary, mizencomputers@eircom.net, or eunicas.ie for veterinary/medical degrees in other European universities.

Growing numbers of Irish students are turning their attention to the nearly 900 degree programmes taught through English in European universities in a wide range of other disciplines. More than a quarter of these programmes are based in the Netherlands where annual fees are €1,951. Details from eunicas.ie.

Guy Flouch of Eunicas says the universities report that the drop-out rate among Irish and British students is significantly lower than that for local students. “It appears that the level of motivation that drives a student abroad to study transfers to their application to study,” Flouch says.

In its annual student feedback survey published last week, Eunicas showed the experience of those who have taken this route in the past few years is encouraging. Flouch testifies to glowing reports from parents and students alike, with a common theme from parents referring to “a surge in confidence and self-esteem and a rediscovery of a love for learning”.

Molly Fitzmaurice, from Waterford, who is in her second year at University of Amsterdam, said: “Studying abroad has given me an overwhelming sense of confidence in myself, never before had I understood just how important it is to do that which terrifies you. The diversity I am now accustomed to is overwhelming. I have friends from more countries than I ever had, or even ever planned on visiting. I cannot encourage others to do it enough.”

Also in the Netherlands, studying fine art in Groningen’s Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Tina Geoghegan from Wicklow described her experience as “mind-blowing”. Studying to be a teacher in Denmark, Ita Connell from Sligo, said: “I was really apprehensive about going to study in Denmark, but it turned out to be an amazing decision and I would recommend it to anyone.”

In fact, it is noticeable how few students seem to regret their decision to study abroad. “I would repeat my decision to move to the Netherlands a thousand times over, best choice I ever made,” is a typical comment, from Dublin’s Danny Ryan who is studying European Studies in Hague University. Similarly Ultan Hoey from Kildare said his decision to study law in Tilburg was one of his “greatest choices”.

Killian Jacob, who is studying arts in Maastricht, reflects on the value of his experience abroad. “Studying in Europe has invaluably led me down paths and to conclusions I never would have come to anywhere else,” he said.

Beyond Europe

There continues to be strong interest among Irish students in studying in the US. Fees are very high, but because the presence of overseas students improves the international rankings of the colleges in question, scholarships are readily available in many universities – although less so in the prestigious Ivy League colleges. Details at fulbright.ie

Despite the many young Irish people who choose to spend a few years in Australia or New Zealand, it is perhaps surprising that the option to study there is not attracting more interest from them, perhaps deterred by high fees and cost of living. Fees range from Aus$18,000-$30,000 (€12,000-€22,000) depending on discipline. Details from studyoptions.com Next: scholarships

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