STUDENTS from Cambridge are turning their backs on British universities to study overseas – in an attempt to avoid a predicted £50,000 of debt created by rising tuition fees.
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Foreign universities have seen a hike in British applicants as students look to dodge the £9,000-a-year university tuition fees being introduced next year.
Oliver Tunnacliffe is one of many looking abroad for a better deal. He is hoping to study medicine at Maastricht or biology at Groningen, both in the Netherlands.
“It seems to me to be the obvious choice with the rising fees,” he said, “I can spend £1,700 on tuition in the Netherlands a year or I can spend £9,000 in Britain.
“The education is the same and I will get the same degree regardless of wherever I study, a first in the Netherlands is the same as a first in Britain.”
Oliver’s parents, Cambridge city councillor Damien Tunnacliffe and Louise Elkins, went to Oxford and had hoped their son would follow in their footsteps.
The 18-year-old student studied biology, chemistry and maths at A-level at Hills Road Sixth Form College, achieving grades A, B and C respectively.
He did not apply to university entry this year as he was undecided about his future.
“My parents wanted me to re-take some modules and get my grades up to study in Britain but when they came round to the idea they started backing me,” said Oliver, who lives in Pretoria Road, Cambridge.
“Of course I will miss my friends and family but it is only a quick and cheap plane or ferry journey to get to the Netherlands so it’s fine.
“I haven’t looked at the downsides, maybe I’m a bit arrogant but I think I’m an optimist.”
Maastricht University has seen a rising trend in British students applying – 84 studied there in the 2009-10, 128 in 2010-11 and 158 are in attendance this academic year.
The university says the students are keen because of a high-quality education, lower fees and the experience of studying abroad.
A spokesman said: “The reason why they come here is because of our small-scale tutorial groups, courses that are fully taught in English and we place great emphasis on the ‘international classroom’ in order to prepare students for an international labour market.”
The National Union of Students has warned British universities the rising fees would have a negative long-term impact.
“This will make students look to study abroad more often and universities over here will see fewer students applying to them,” a spokesman said.
“Other countries around the world are putting more funding into their universities and, with the hike in fees, students from abroad will no longer look to study in Cambridge.”
Johnny Rich, editor of the Push Guide to Which University, urged students to research studying overseas thoroughly before making any decisions.
“There is still a massive demand for British university places which outstretches supply,” he said.
“But with lower tuition fees and a mind-broadening experience why wouldn’t people want to study in the Netherlands.
“Students need to work out what’s important to them and which institutions will be right for them.
“I would like to urge caution as they might not find that it will work out nicely.
“Open your search to the Netherlands but don’t think because it is cheaper it will be better.”
Former Impington Village College student Jasmin Adams, 18, looked into studying in the Netherlands but has decided on staying in the UK.