Brits reluctant to study abroad

April 16, 1999

British taxpayers and higher education institutions are paying millions of pounds for the equivalent of a university dedicated wholly to teaching students from other European countries, it emerged this week.

The imbalance between the number of European Union students "imported" to the United Kingdom and the number of British "exported" to the Continent is greater than it has ever been, confidential figures show.

European officials warned that Britain is falling far behind other EU countries, including some new member states, in its use of study abroad and student exchange schemes. And they expect the situation to get worse.

Although the number of British students in Europe under the Erasmus programme rose slightly to 10,592 in 1997-98, the number of EU students coming to Britain grew faster to 20,769.

The figures, compiled for a report by the UK Socrates Erasmus Council, based at the University of Kent, are a key indicator of Britain's EU student "trade deficit", estimated to cost Pounds 100 million a year. British universities lost out because Erasmus rules do not allow them to charge incoming students tuition fees.

The council is alarmed at the poor response from British students despite a call last year for British universities and the government to put more effort into promoting study in Europe, following a House of Lords inquiry and report on student mobility.

Last year's Erasmus figures recorded a drop for the second year running in British students on the scheme. This year's show only a marginal increase of 54 students and it is expected numbers will fall again next year.

Susan Slater, council administrative officer, said: "When you look at how the Erasmus programme has grown, it is alarming to see Britain left behind."

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