Study at a foreign university to save fees
Merryn Somerset Webb Aug 29, 2012
Going to university just got more expensive. Students who started last year will end up with a final bill of around £26,000. But those about to start this September aren’t so lucky. They are being hit with the new fee regime and thanks to most of our universities’ decisions to charge as much as they can (up to £9,000), they could face bills of over £50,000 in total. Given this level of debt, it’s small wonder that parents around the country are beginning to think about trying to pay tuition bills up front. But they should think carefully before they do so. The current plan for the repayment of loans is more like a progressive tax system than a debt system. That means most parents will be wasting their money.
Look at it like this. Students who borrowed the maximum for three years would have debt of £43,500. However, if they then earned only an average salary and paid back, as required, 9% of their income exceeding £21,000, they would have paid only £25,000 after 30 years – at which point the debt is written off anyway. It is the other way around for high earners: start on £35,000 and get a 4% annual rise, says The Times, and in 30 years you will have ended up paying back twice what you borrowed. So what’s the answer? Parents, don’t pay up-front – wait to see how much your child ends up earning and take it from there.
Better all round, however, might be to join what The Guardian calls the “fee refugees” and go to university somewhere else. Denmark and Norway both offer free tuition to students from within the EU; Norway charges £1,385 and Ireland charges £1,760. Some of these universities are significantly tougher than ours (Dutch universities are “brutal” about weeding out underperformers), but on the plus side they do teach in English. There are now 1,200 degree courses being taught in English in Europe – and that’s before you start counting Ireland. Otherwise it might be worth looking at Asia: according to The Guardian, emerging universities are keen to attract European students and are “offering highly attractive scholarship programmes” in their efforts to do so. See Europeeducation.org.uk for more on this.
The other option? If you aren’t determined to have a career that requires technical knowledge (law, medicine, etc) don’t go to university at all. Sure, you’ll miss out on a British rite of passage, but as Ian Dormer, chairman of the Institute of Directors, points out in The Sunday Telegraph, it isn’t just good grades that get you a good career – it is having a good work ethic alongside “the willingness to learn, the ability to be flexible and the enthusiasm to do well”. All these things don’t require a degree.