“Libraries maintain spending on advanced bibliography, computing facilities are rarely oversubscribed, and the standard of the physical surroundings is high. Academic life is rich and cosmopolitan and has not yet suffered the debasement so apparent in the UK.” Going Dutch was zelden zo aanbevolen, kortom. Lees het hele artikel hieronder.
Go Dutch – save a fortune in fees
Universities in Holland offer first-class postgraduate degrees at a budget price, says Simon Northwood. If markets have any place in higher education, and if British postgraduate students are half as bright as they’re cracked up to be, there will soon be an exodus to the Continent. Dutch universities are the first in Europe to offer a full range of postgraduate courses in English. This is the logical consequence of the rapid growth in demand for postgraduate qualifications and of our exceptionally high fees compared with those elsewhere in Europe.
This demand has grown because increased numbers of graduates and grade inflation have reduced the competitive value of a first degree. On average, today’s graduates can expect to earn only £150,000 more in a working lifetime than non-graduates – 10 years ago, it was £400,000. To boost this earnings differential, the modern graduate needs to stand out by adding another degree – a masters or a PhD – to his CV. No wonder that almost four times as many postgraduate degrees were awarded to full-time students last year than 10 years earlier.
But if the imperative to further study is clear, so are the costs. Except for a small minority who receive government funding, postgraduates pay their own fees and living expenses, adding to their already substantial undergraduate debts. These average £13,500 but will rise sharply with the increase in tuition fees, a situation exacerbated by the absence of a structured loans system for postgraduate study.
However, there is a way to reduce the cost of further study. Dutch universities are the first in continental Europe to offer a full range of postgraduate courses taught and assessed in English. The fees represent exceptional value: €1,500 a year (£1,000) compared with a minimum of £3,500 in the UK. It is possible to pay as little as €500 because many EU students are eligible for an annual rebate of €1,000. Add a lower cost of living and budget air fares, and you have a compelling economic argument for student migration.
Low fees do not mean poor quality or limited choice. There are new universities at Maastricht and Rotterdam, early 20th-century red bricks at Nijmegen and Tilburg and fine 16th- and 17th-century foundations at Groningen, Utrecht, Amsterdam, and Leiden. The latter three are members of the elite League of European Research Universities, reflecting the strength of Dutch education. (Only the UK has a larger contingent: Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, UCL.)
Libraries maintain spending on advanced bibliography, computing facilities are rarely oversubscribed, and the standard of the physical surroundings is high. Academic life is rich and cosmopolitan and has not yet suffered the debasement so apparent in the UK, where students are paying more and getting so much less.
Don’t, though, take my word for it. Alice Samson, for example, has an MPhil and is now reading for a PhD in archaeology at Leiden. “I came here because the academic opportunities were greater, the course was in English, the fees cheaper and the reputation good,” she says. Alastair Reed, who is taking an MSc in political science, says: “What I found in the Netherlands amazed me. I could study in English at a fraction of the UK price. I’m going to graduate from one of the top universities in Europe but without the millstone of crushing debts.” Andrew Mackay adds an interesting twist. He is an external PhD candidate living in London. He uses the British Library but flies to the Netherlands every few months for supervision, as well as communicating by phone and e-mail: “I knew that to complete a PhD in the UK I would need up to £4,000 a year for at least three years just for fees, which I couldn’t afford. But as an EU citizen I pay no fees to undertake a PhD in the Netherlands.”
European universities are committed by the 1999 Bologna declaration to move towards transparent and mutually recognised qualifications designed to facilitate mobility of students and a European market in education. To this end they are adopting UK-style bachelors and masters programmes, with many masters degrees taught in English. Almost all have fees lower than in the UK, and some charge none. So the next decade will see more and more courses in English and even more opportunities for UK students to study at the best European universities.
The adoption of English as the universal language of advanced study will also extend these opportunities to more non-EU students at a significantly lower price (commonly €10,000 compared with £10,000). This is a major threat to the UK’s position in the global market. Non-EU students, who provide seven per cent of the higher education sector’s total income, will be able to get the same for less abroad. The precarious position of UK universities in this global market should be obvious. But the 2003 higher education White Paper contained not a single reference to the Bologna declaration and its consequences.
Perhaps the Government is driven only by its targets for undergraduates and considers postgraduates expendable. But if continental universities eventually offer bachelors degrees in English, students with half-decent A-levels will ask why they should burden themselves with debt when a similar or better education can be found abroad. At best, only our brightest and most ambitious will be enticed away; at worst, swaths of school-leavers will depart. The Government may well reach its target of 50 per cent entering higher education, but they won’t be studying in the UK.
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