According to USA Today, “a record 241,791 United States (US) students went abroad for academic credit in 2006-2007, up eight percent from the previous year, and nearly 150 percent more than a decade earlier.” Many of these students are traveling to schools in the United Kingdom (UK). Seven schools from the UK visited Stuyvesant on college night, held on Thursday, April 30: Oxford, Cambridge, St. Andrews, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Warwick. From the classes of ‘07 and ’08, nine students applied to Oxford, 12 students applied to St. Andrews, and four to Edinburgh.
According to a November 30, 2008 New York Times article, called “Going Off to College for Less (Passport Required)” students in the UK get less individual attention than students at comparable U.S. universities. Stuyvesant graduate and St. Andrews freshman Jeremiah Hay (’08) said that “the lecture classes are really huge.” But he said there’s an upside: “My assumption […] is that I get more attention here – because there’s a tutorial each week for each class that was [has] no more than 13 people, and I don’t think that they do that in the US,” Hay said. However, he complained that the “food is various shades of mediocre.”
According to senior Georgia Stasinopoulos, who was accepted into Oxford but decided not to go, UK universities let you study “the subject you want to pursue, rather than a core or other things,” she said. At universities in the UK, except for those in Scotland, students graduate in three years instead of four. They save time by choosing a major immediately while American students usually choose a major during their junior year.
In England, students can only take classes within their majors. Students in Scotland are given more freedom to experiment, and are also able to change their majors—something students in the rest of the UK can’t do.
Specialization and three-year programs help schools in the UK save money. UK universities are government-subsidized, and none are so well endowed as their American counterparts.
Tuition at Oxford and St. Andrews is around 11,000 pounds, or about 16,500 dollars at the current exchange rate. Dormitory costs barely raise the price past 20,000 dollars. On the other hand, American colleges can cost as much as 50,000 dollars a year. Students who don’t qualify for financial aid from an American college stand to save a substantial sum. US government loans can also be used at UK universities.
The pound’s drop against the dollar and euro has attracted students to universities in the UK. According to Andrew Disbury, Dean of Admissions at St Andrews, more students are applying because of the favorable exchange rates. “Several parents told me during my trip they had only begun to think of UK as an option because of the exchange rates,” Disbury said in an e-mail interview. Twenty percent of St Andrews students are from abroad. According to the New York Times article, “St Andrews has 1,230 Americans among its 7,200 students this year, compared with fewer than 200 a decade ago.”
Of Edinburgh’s 23,000 students, “around 1400 students—just over 5 percent—are from the USA. US students are split roughly in three: students pursuing full undergraduate degrees, graduate students and study abroad students,” said Rebecca Gaukroger, International Office Assistant Director at Edinburgh.
Students interested in studying abroad can consult the Times Good University Guide. Oxford places first, followed by Cambridge. Oxford and Cambridge are often referred to as Oxbridge—the term means about the same thing that Ivy League does here.
In addition to the term Oxbridge, several other terms are used to describe the UK’s universities. The six universities founded in England’s industrial cities before WWI are called red bricks, and the plate glass universities were founded in the 60s. The post-1992 universities are converted technical schools. The seven universities founded before the 17th century are called the ancient universities. Most were founded before North America was discovered.
Studying in the UK can be an inexpensive alternative to studying here. Universities there are often picturesque, and many have centuries of history behind them. Healthcare is free, and the drinking age is 18. Altogether it’s quite a package.