What are the opportunities for students wanting to study in Europe?
Ask any student in the U.K which universities combine affordable living costs with an exciting campus lifestyle and they might come up with places like Cardiff or Manchester.
But, according to the British Council, there are better deals further south – in Europe.
The universities of Granada and Valencia in Spain top the British Council’s league table of destinations for UK Erasmus students. In Valencia, besides near-year-round sunshine, cheap restaurants meals cost €10.14, monthly travel passes cost €38.32 and student apartments outside the city centre can be found for as little as €255.56 a month.
Funded by the EU to encourage students to spend anything from a year to a semester at university in another EU country, the Erasmus programme is Europe’s biggest provider of overseas study bursaries.
Last year, around 13,000 UK students, mostly undergraduates, took advantage of an Erasmus grant. “Two thirds of the mobility is to Spain, France, and Germany, which corresponds to the commonest languages studied at university level,” says British Council Erasmus progamme manager David Hibler. A typical Erasmus grant of €375 a month con¬ tributes to accommodation and living costs while a student is living abroad. The grant is paid in three tranches and is not means tested.
There is a popular misconception that study abroad is prohibitively expensive. But the combination of an Erasmus grant, student loan and the fact that no tuition fees are payable to the host university, means students can complete their time in Europe without going into debt.
Students who spend a year on Erasmus have the added advantage that their home university tuition fee is waived as well – a saving now worth up to £9,000. Helen Scott, 22, took a year out of her BSc in neuroscience with German to work in a research laboratory at the University of Cologne. “Over the year Erasmus paid me almost £4,000. Before starting my year abroad, I travelled to Cologne to find a flatshare. Sharing with three other people cost me €350 a month which my parents paid by standing order.
“Throughout the year, I earned €60 a week teaching English to a family for four hours a week. That helped me pay for the things I needed like my travel pass (€200 per semester) and food. I received the last instalment of my Erasmus money when I got back to England and that paid for my summer spends,” says Scott, who reckons that she broke even.
The cost of living varies consider¬ ably across Europe. The cheapest student costs are to be found in southern and eastern Europe and the British Council is offering a one- off supplementary grant of €400 for students heading for less visited EU countries like Croatia, Czech Republic Greece, Hungary, Poland and Romania.
From Southampton Solent University, Piers d’Orgée spent a semester at the Hogeschool in Utrecht and a semester at the Danish School of Journalism in Aarhus as part of his BA in journalism. He com¬ pares the cost of living. “Denmark is a very expensive place to live. The cost of a tin of baked beans is roughly £1.50 and for a pint of beer, it’s £5,” says d’Orgée, who confined his drinking to a local club’s happy hour and found a low rent student flatshare.
“In Holland I paid about £350 a month for short stay student flat. Eating out would have been expensive but I joined a student diner’s club, taking it in turns to cook and pay for food. I could feed a whole party for €20,” says d’Orgée. While Erasmus is only designed to cover up to a year’s study abroad, an increasing number of students study full time at European universities.
Degrees taught in English and low tuition fees are only part of the attraction. Many universities offer bursaries or even government aid programmes which UK students can apply for. Grenoble Graduate School of Management has specific scholar¬ ships for cultural diversity, an Outstanding Professional Woman award and an Early Bird grant for the first group of students to apply. With campuses in Paris and Lille, IESEG one of the top French Grands Ecoles attracts UK students to its bachelors in business administration. According to student services, all students can get help with the cost of accommodation. In order to benefit, students have to register with the CAF (Caisses d’Allocations Familiales) an organisation which administers financial aid for housing. And have a valid resident’s permit. Like many French universities, IESEG offers merit-based scholarships.
“France can be a great alternative for English students. The school provides free French classes to help students adapt to the environment. We have a very active student support service for international students, which helps with housing and job placement. And costs of living are in general lower than in UK,” says IESEG dean Jean-Philippe Ammeux.
Dutch universities attract many UK students as the Dutch speak near perfect English. Rotterdam School of Management, part of Erasmus University, is keen to point out that the reasonable cost of living and low tuition fees can be worth as much as a scholarship. “In Rotterdam a student can find an unfurnished room for about €350 per month all-in. And tuition fees are kept at a very reasonable level by the Dutch government, consolidating it at a mere €1,830 as from 2013,” says BSc executive director, Adri Meijdam.
As applications to European universities are usually made direct and via the university’s website, students should take the opportunity to ask about any grants or bursaries they might be eligible for at the earliest possible stage.
In Germany, Berlin’s Humboldt Universitat advises students seeking scholarships to accompany their application with references, a detailed CV and a letter of motivation. The Humboldt website lists German charities and sponsoring bodies including DAAD (Deutscher Akademische Austausch Dienst) scholarships and a Scholarship of the Berlin Parliament.
Students applying for a DAAD need to contact DAAD in Bonn enclosing a copy of a letter from a German university confirming your acceptance on the course. Berlin, unlike other German cities, offers what is known as a Begrüßungsgeld – a €100 “hello” – to every new student starting in the city to help see them through their first few days.