Universities across the world report unprecedented levels of interest from UK sixth formers in the run up to the introduction of £9,000 a year tuition fees in England.Applications are being driven by parents who want to avoid paying £27,000 for a three year degree or having their teenagers saddled with years of debt.Families are prepared to spend hundreds of pounds on visits to overseas campuses to persuade children to look for courses that as well as being cheaper might give them a competitive edge in the dire UK job market.Early indications are that thousands of sixth formers are considering opting out of the UK system or applying abroad as a backup in case they fail to get offers from UK institutions.The Fulbright Commission, which helps to co-ordinate transatlantic study, said more than 4,000 students and parents attended its US college information day last month 50 per cent more than last year. More than 120 teenagers from the UK, many with their parents, travelled to the Netherlands this weekend to an open day at Maastricht University.
Half of its undergraduate courses are taught entirely in English, from lectures to exams. Fees at the European institution, which is highly regarded, are just £1,500 a year.Some 130 British students enrolled in the university last year five times the number in 2009. Applications from the UK for 2012 places are expected to exceed 600.Scott Clothier, 17, a student at Holy Cross College, Bury, is considering studying international business at Maastricht.His mother, Catherine Clothier, said the rise in tuition fees provided the initial impetus to look at foreign universities.
When I realised that some degrees abroad are taught in English, that sparked my interest, she said. "The fees had a lot to do with it.
It's so much cheaper over there and you're getting an internationally recognised degree.The employment market is so competitive. Someone who has gone overseas to get a comparable degree to one available in the UK might have a bit of an edge.It might show that you are independent and that you have broadened you horizons.UK students can qualify for a non-repayable grant from the Dutch government worth £228 per month and a tuition fee loan, if they work part-time while studying.The city is five hours from London by train. Budget airlines fly to Brussels and Eindhoven which are just over an hour away. Tuition fee rises in the UK were an issue for Mary Lander, who is researching overseas universities with her daughter Samantha, 17, a pupil at Holy Cross School, in New Malden, Surrey.
She wants to study econometrics and operations research or economics and business economics.
Maastricht looks very suitable in a number of ways,said Mrs Lander.The cost makes it very interesting and I'm not worried about the distance.It only takes a few hours to get there. If she was going to a UK university, it could take just as long.Universities outside Europe have also reported increased parental demand. Dozens of students at a recent University of South Florida recruitment day in London were accompanied by keen parents.Its $14,900 fees are similar to the £9,000 a year that many English universities will charge but living costs are considerably lower than in much of the UK.The university, in Tampa Bay, has an international reputation on a par with the UK's Russell Group of leading institutions.
Katherine Beasley, 17, a pupil at Clifton College, Bristol, is considering South Florida.I want to study marine biology so Florida would have a lot of advantages,said the teenager.The common view used to be that US universities were very costly but since the rise in UK tuition fees, they don't look so expensive any more.From that point of view my parents have been very encouraging and think it's a very good opportunity.Anthony Seldon, the high master of Wellington College, in Berkshire, warned that British universities had to address the challenge now posed by international competition.Half of our 16-year-olds said they would be interested in studying abroad when we talked to them last term, that's a huge leap up,he said.I had a visit last month from the University of Hong Kong. Fees there are about £9,000 a year but the cost of living is a third of the price of London. British universities have to start to wake up to it.Their attitude has been that it is a trickle of students, so nothing to worry about but I don't think they can carry on citing that.