Studying in Europe: Low fees, more choice
With no points race, the chance to mix modules, and courses taught through English, many are seeing past the CAO
Dubliner Patrick Orr, now studying at University College Utrecht
Increasing numbers of Irish students and their parents are looking beyond Ireland for higher-level education: not just the traditional hop across the pond, and not just in search of hard-to-access programmes such as medicine and veterinary.
Patrick Orr has just started a three-year degree programme in liberal arts and science in Utrecht. As he approached his Leaving Cert in Sandford Park School in Ranelagh, Dublin 6, he became increasingly frustrated with the offerings available through the CAO.
“I come from a family of doctors and I’m interested in medicine, but I didn’t want to tie myself to a career too early because I also have a keen interest in the arts,” he says. “I was looking for a course that was more open and that combined science and humanities and an element of choice. I just couldn’t find it in the Irish system.”
Orr’s aunt lectures in linguistics in Utrecht, in the Netherlands, and she drew his attention to a programme in her college that offered all the subjects he was looking for and the chance to specialise as he went along. The course is taught through English, along with hundreds of degree and masters-level courses right across Europe.
“I have so many interests and don’t want to pigeonhole myself into a profession at 18 years of age,” says Orr, who also has a keen interest in music and has worked as a band technician as well as performing. “This year I’m studying philosophy, literature and physics. I’m also taking a module in research and academic skills. Over the course of this year I’ll take modules in anthropology, mathematics and sociology. There are loads of options and I don’t have to specialise until further into the degree. It’s very exciting to consider all the possible qualifications I could come out with.”
Travelling to the Netherlands wasn’t a major upheaval for Patrick; he’s a keen traveller and has spent many summers with relatives in Europe. “I really liked the idea of studying in the Netherlands. It’s an interesting country and the system is well-developed for this kind of teaching. This university seemed the best one, although I applied to others as well. I was offered a place on my chosen course in Utrecht even before I sat the Leaving Cert.”
Orr’s place in University College Utrecht was based on an interview which he did via Skype, a “letter of motivation”, a letter from a sponsor and an aptitude test. His results in the Leaving Cert were considered, but only as a matriculation standard; he needed to get a certain amount of passes and honours rather than a points tally.
Degrees in Europe
This is one of the reasons so many Irish students – more than 600 this year – are considering degree courses in Europe, says Guy Flouch, the head of of Eunicas, a UK-based application support service that guides students through the process of applying to universities in Europe.
“The entry requirements for European universities are much more reasonable than here. In the Netherlands, for example, universities are forbidden by law to select students based on grades. Third-level education is regarded as a right.