Postgraduate study abroad has experienced a surge in popularity over the past decade, as more and more UK postgraduate students are flocking overseas to continue their research.
Why study abroad?
So what would motivate a student to leave the UK’s motley crew of universities behind? Why would someone want to experience university life with an international twist?
Look into the brain of the student and you won’t find an alcoholic slushy mess, but a solid core of genuine passion for their course. The first consideration a postgraduate student should have is for their course and their subject. Indeed, that’s why many chose to study abroad; simply because a foreign institute might offer a better, more renowned course in the student’s specialist area.
Furthermore, the institution or department might offer more funding for students in that area. Sometimes there simply isn’t the funding or the facilities to study a particular specialist subject in the UK.
In addition, many postgrads choose to go abroad because it is often better to investigate a topic if you’re in the actual country where the research is based. Some students even choose to study abroad because they want to conduct their research under the supervision of a particular academic whom they admire.
Other factors that might drive students abroad are the lure of cheaper tuitions fees or simply because they want to get a taste of studying abroad. However, it’s important to note that postgraduate study abroad should not be an excuse to visit a country. After all, it would certainly be a pretty expensive and time-consuming way to experience life in another country.
What do I need to think about?
Put all the normal factors you’ll have to consider, such as subject area, university choice and funding, on a plate, and shake on a whole lot of other complications, including extra paperwork, visa restrictions, language proficiency and making sure that you have the right qualifications.
As a result, you’ll need to start planning far earlier than you would if you were applying for a postgraduate course in the UK. Start by exploring your postgraduate study options, figuring out what country you’d like to go to, picking an institution that you’d like to study at, and then, crucially, work out where you’re going to get funding from.
It’s also important to bear in mind that some postgraduate courses abroad might last longer than they do in the UK.
Another added complication is that there is no universally-accepted recognition of overseas undergraduate qualifications. Admittedly, it is easier in Europe, where the Bologna Process has made a positive step in the right direction towards standardising degrees.
However, in some cases, you might also need a master’s degree as well as a bachelor’s degree to apply for certain courses. For extra help and guidance, we would recommend contacting UK NARIC.
If you don’t want to go the whole hog and commit to studying abroad, you could try the Erasmus Mundus scheme, which offers full-time scholarships for Erasmus Mundus Joint Programmes. There are nearly 130 masters and doctoral courses to choose from and you’ll get the chance to study at both a UK university and another university in Europe.
Pros & cons of postgraduate study abroad
- If you think PhDs in the UK are a bit of a slog, PhDs in the USA and Europe can take even longer to achieve, usually lasting five or more years. In addition, there is a substantial taught component at the start of a PhD course in the US.
- As an international student, funding will probably be far harder to get than it would in the UK.
- For non-English speaking countries, you’ll probably need to pass a language proficiency test in the native language in order to be accepted onto the postgraduate course. However, there are some postgraduate courses, particularly in Northern Europe, which are taught in English.
- Studying abroad can help you develop language skills and an international outlook; both of which are valued by employers.
- Tuition fees might be cheaper in some countries, but you might have to fork out for things like visa fees, travel costs, admission fees and other paperwork. However, if you manage to land yourself an assistantship, a grant or a scholarship, this will usually cover the extra costs.