Studying abroad: Where will the money come from?
Posted on May 20, 2011
Research is all-important when it comes to planning how you are going to pay for your overseas studies, advises William Ham Bevan.
It is essential to work out how you will fund your time abroad before sending off an application. Even if you are lucky enough to find a course that has no tuition fees, you need to be sure you can cover your living and travel expenses.
One of the most cost-effective ways of studying abroad is to take part in an academic exchange programme while attending a UK university.
Many such opportunities are available, and as they involve a like-for-like exchange between a home and a foreign student, costs rarely exceed what the home student would pay for the remainder of the course.
The best-known academic exchange scheme is Erasmus, an initiative of the European Commission that is administered by the British Council in the UK. Erasmus offers grants for a study or work placement of three to 12 months in one of 30 European countries. Full academic credit is given for most periods of study spent abroad.
What’s more, those taking up an Erasmus placement do not pay tuition fees to their host university abroad. And if the placement is for an entire academic year (24 term-time weeks or more) then tuition fees are also waived by their UK university.
Erasmus grants — €225 per month for the 2010-11 academic year — are non-repayable, not means-tested and paid through the home university in addition to any standard grants or loans that the student is entitled to (which are adjusted to a special “overseas” rate). At its discretion, the home university may still offer Access to Learning funds for those who require additional money.
Local authorities may also be able to help with travel costs, through means-tested grants.
Gina Reay, 21, did Erasmus placements in Italy and France as part of her degree in Modern Languages and European Studies at the University of Bath. During her time at the Sapienza University of Rome, she found the Erasmus funding invaluable. “The financial support was amazing,” she says. “It meant I could make the most of the year. It’s expensive in a capital city, but I could go for meals and drinks and not worry about money as much as I do in England.”
A DEGREE IN EUROPE
Applying to do a whole undergraduate degree overseas demands extensive research — particularly if you are hoping to secure any sort of financial aid. At present, those studying abroad in this way are not eligible for UK student loans and grants. Nevertheless, attending university in Europe can mean very good value for money, thanks to European Union (EU) legislation. All UK citizens have the right to pay the same course fees as nationals of the country in which they are studying, and are eligible for the same tuition-fee grants. With course fees in some countries capped at a fraction of Britain’s £9,000 maximum, the savings can be considerable.
There is no corresponding right to financial assistance for expenses other than tuition. EU nations are under no compulsion to offer maintenance grants and loans to students from other member states (unless they are already resident in that country, which usually means they have lived there for three to five years).
However, many EU countries have unilaterally opted to extend their finance arrangements to visiting students, although extra conditions may apply. In the Netherlands, for example, non-Dutch students from EU nations are entitled to a state maintenance grant only if they undertake paid work for a certain number of hours each month; and government loans are usually only available to those who are aged under 30 at the beginning of their course.
The rules of the different EU nations have been known to change regularly, so it is essential to obtain information that is geared to the specific country.
STUDYING FURTHER AFIELD
In researching university courses around the world, you will find a huge variation in fee levels and available financial assistance.
Some institutions — notably top private universities in the US — operate “need-blind” admissions. This means that the applicant’s financial circumstances are not taken into account during the application process. Any shortfall between what the student’s family can afford and the full cost of education is met by university funds. In all cases, entry to such places is fiercely competitive.
It’s worth remembering that when studying outside the EU, British nationals have no automatic right to work. The amount and nature of paid work that is permitted on a student visa varies, and it is essential to find out the current regulations from the appropriate embassy, consulate or education office.
Scholarships that cover all fees and maintenance are extremely rare at undergraduate level, so they attract large numbers of top-class applicants. For example, the US Department of State estimates that there are no more than 1,000 such awards for foreign citizens in the whole of the country.
Not all scholarships are awarded for academic merit — other criteria include sporting excellence or outstanding citizenship. Financial awards from foreign governments, educational trusts and other grant-making bodies can also contribute towards the cost of a degree, but the amounts are likely to be small.
In all cases, extensive research and planning is required, well in advance of the date of application. The online resources (below) are a useful starting point.
• Academic exchange programmes
• General resources
• Scholarship information
• Study in Europe
• Study in the US
• Study worldwide
18 May 2011
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