Study Abroad and the UK Student Loan
Last week I was on the road again, touring South Wales and South West England with colleagues from four Dutch Research Universities, visiting 10 schools to meet students interested in studying abroad.
Working in this field, I can forget sometimes the misconceptions students have about international opportunities. To me it is obvious that you can study in the Netherlands, in English, in almost any field of study, but many students dismiss the opportunity thinking ‘but I don’t speak Dutch.’ Traveling for work regularly I overlook the fact that it is not immediately obvious to students that the Netherlands, in terms of travel time, is closer than many UK universities they would consider. When I then start discussing opportunities in Japan, or Denmark, or Malaysia, I’m constantly reminded to go back to basics when explaining to students how their university experience might work in each country.
Bringing universities to schools helps me to bridge these misconceptions, making it as easy as possible for students to hear of opportunities which might potentially change their lives. As I write there are two similar tours going on this week, IE Week led by Antony Adams, and the FPP Student World Roadshow, while next week Study Options will have their annual Australian universities events. This week I’ve also exhibited at events held at two schools in Somerset, meeting up with the teams from Burnett Global Education and IE University who are also evangelising for study abroad. Up and down the UK, students are able to meet with people exposing them to opportunities to study at a non-UK university.
In this climate, there is one factor which regularly occurs to me: why can’t the UK student loan be taken overseas? It makes no difference to the repayment process, and if the Channel Islands can make it work then so can the English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish administrations. Universities UK have recently published statistics which show how much value study abroad – as part of a UK degree – adds to a student’s education, so why not take the next step and do your entire degree abroad? Friends and colleagues will know that making the student loan portable outside the UK is something I am very passionate about, and I will continue to press for this change in any way I can. It would be a game-changer for UK student mobility, fulfil widening participation and social mobility goals and, most importantly, have no additional cost to the UK tax payer. In a post-Brexit world, what could be a stronger statement to young Brits that they will still have a global future?