Tuition Fee Hike has Some British Students Seeking Greener Pastures and a Better Value Abroad

Sep 28, 2012, 07:26 ET from Currencies Direct

LONDON, September 28, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --

As universities across the UK welcome back students for the 2012-2013 academic year, some are finding fewer students enrolled in courses than expected. And according to Currencies Direct - Europe's leading provider of currency exchange services - many British students are realising that universities abroad can offer a great educational value and relief from the higher British tuition fee regime.

2012 saw 15,000 fewer British students seek space at universities in England, according to a report released last month by the Independent Commission on Fees. This drop coincides with the new tuition fee regime, in which universities in England are now charging fees for British students of up to £9,000 per year, to be repaid by graduates upon completion of their study.

According to the report, nearly 1 in 20 students who would ordinarily be expected to pursue a space at a university in England failed to do so - with the higher percentage coming from middle and upper-class families unlikely to benefit from financial support. This decline is not apparent in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which are not subjected to the new tuition regime and largely saw expected application figures.

Going Dutch?

Dutch universities are fast becoming popular with British students seeking high quality education at a low cost. Officials from the University of Groningen have reported that the number of applicants from the UK have quadrupled in just the past two years. As citizens of the EU, students from England pay the same rate as Dutch students, which is approximately €1,770 / £1,414 per year. University of Amsterdam, Leiden University, Utrecht University and Erasmus University of Rotterdam all received high marks in the 2012 QS World University rankings and all offer programmes taught entirely in English.

Indeed, whilst UK and US institutions dominated this year's QS World University Rankings, some savvy students are realising that the educational value is greater at other European universities, where tuition fees are a fraction of the cost and the current exchange rates favour the British pound.

Alistair Cotton, Senior Analyst at Currencies Direct said:

"Much has been made in the media of British students rushing off to the Netherlands to study. Numbers simply don't show that students are heading to the Continent en masse, but for students seeking an alternative to the new tuition fee regime in England, Dutch universities offer a great value.

"Not only are tuition fees significantly cheaper, but the relative strength of the British pound compared with the euro means that Brits exchanging their sterling to pay for tuition fees in euros are getting much more bang for their buck than they would at this time last year."

The Land of Opportunity?

American universities are often considered - along with British - to be the global standard bearer for excellence in higher education. Of the top 10 universities in the QS World Rankings, 6 are American and 4 are British. But along with the sterling reputation comes the hefty price tag of higher education in the United States.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which was ranked as the world's best university in the 2012 QS World Rankings, costs an average of £35,000 per year for an undergraduate degree, according to the university's website.

Alistair Cotton said:

"American universities have a stellar global reputation, but that certainly doesn't necessarily mean a good value. While many universities offer need-based financial support, tuition fees are astronomical compared to British universities. Therefore we shouldn't expect Brits to flock to America for university.

"From a purely currency exchange perspective, however, attending an American university is better for British students now than it was a year ago. The current exchange rate of 1.6 favours the pound more than it did one year ago at 1.55. That means that for a year at MIT, a family in England will need to pay £35,431, whereas one year ago, that amount would have been closer to £36,780."

Is it better Down Under?

Other than the US and UK, the best performing nation in the 2012 QS World Rankings is Australia.  The country-with only 22.6 million people-actually has 7 universities in the top 100. The highest ranked institution - Canberra's Australian National University (ANU) - costs on average £17,929 according to the University's 2013 fees schedule.

Alistair Cotton said:

"For the past several years, young Brits have been flocking to Australia due to the wider availability of jobs and strength of the Aussie dollar. Tuition fees, however, are significantly greater than in the UK. High costs of living, coupled with travel costs, mean that British students looking to study in Australia will have to spend some serious money.

"The pound - Aussie Dollar exchange rate favours the Aussies as well. A year of undergraduate study fees will cost a Brit about £17,929 this year, but last year this amount would have been £17,366."

Home Sweet Home?

Despite all of the opportunities for international study that the global market of education provides, most British students still choose to stay at home. According to statistics from the EU, of the 600,000 EU students who were studying in their non-native land, 175,000 of these students were in the UK - with only 11,800 Brits studying elsewhere in another EU country.

Alistair Cotton concluded: 

"The nature of education has changed due to globalisation. In Britain, students are no longer restricted to what's available in their immediate vicinity, though for most, the lure of high-quality education at a relatively low price is too good to pass up. The global nature of higher education means that students have choice - and are able to shop around for the best value.

"Tuition fee increases have caused some of the greatest controversy in the coalition government. For some Brits, the increases have been the catalyst to begin looking elsewhere for higher education.

"Increased fees are only one piece of the puzzle, however, and when considering best value, Brits should factor in exchange rates and cost-of-living increases associated with living outside of England."

                                                        tuition fee -
                                     QS World Ranking   2012-2013 (in
      Country        University           - 2012            GBP)

        UK           Cambridge              #2            GBP9,000
        USA             MIT                 #1            GBP35,000
                   University of
    Netherlands      Amsterdam             #62            GBP1,414
                Australian National
     Australia       University            #24            GBP17,929

Editor's Notes:

  1. Currencies Direct ( is one of Europe's leading non-bank providers of currency exchange payment services. Since its formation in 1996 Currencies Direct has evolved and positioned from being an innovative service provider of foreign exchange for consumers and high net worth individuals into a dynamic and pioneering 'business to business' fully integrated treasury solution service provider. Headquartered in the City of London (United Kingdom) with operations in Europe, Africa and Asia, Currencies Direct is part of the Azibo Group, a privately owned investment company.
  2. A photo of Alistair Cotton and a Currencies Direct logo are available from the Currencies Direct press office.
  3. Exchange rates are calculated based on the rates available via Currencies Direct on 25 October 2012.  For more information, visit

SOURCE Currencies Direct