Considering doing a master’s? Why not do it abroad

The future of UK-EU higher education relations remains uncertain, but for the next couple of years, it’s worth exploring the options of studying abroad

December 4 2018
Aarhaus University

Whether you want to continue to a PhD or just aren’t sure which field to go into after graduation, taking a master’s course can be a fantastic opportunity.

As well as a chance to continue learning, postgraduate study also offers tangible benefits, according to the 2017 Graduate Labour Market Statistics. Having a postgraduate degree increases your chances of gaining high-skilled employment by about 20 per cent compared with having a graduate degree, and postgraduates earn an average of £6,000 more than graduates.

However, many students are put off postgraduate study by the high costs. According to Ucas, the average postgraduate tuition fee in the UK is £11,000 a year, which, when added to an already substantial amount of undergraduate student debt, can make the prospect seem impossible.

One solution can be to enrol in a postgraduate course abroad, as many universities in continental Europe offer master’s programmes in English for nothing or for only a nominal fee. While courses in Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Poland are completely free for students from the European Union and the European Economic Area, those in other countries often have significantly lower fees than are charged in the UK, such as Austria and Germany.

It’s too early to tell what the effect of Brexit will be on the rights of Britons studying in the EU. However, while the situation is uncertain, it’s a good idea for UK students to take up these opportunities while they still can. The proposed Brexit transition period will guarantee the right of UK students to study in the EU certainly for the year 2019-20, and possibly until 2021.

For me, beginning a master’s course in Denmark was the best decision I made. As an EU student, I’m not paying any fees for my journalism course at Aarhus University, making the option significantly more attractive than those on offer in the UK. And it’s also given me the chance to explore a new country, learn a new language and enjoy a different style of learning.

International perspective: an Iranian student in Poland
International perspective: an Indian student in Spain
International perspective: a Dutch student in Denmark
International perspective: an Indian student in the UK

Aarhus currently offers English-language master’s courses in subjects from biology to political science and business administration. However, as well as the uncertainty stirred up by Brexit, a recent move to reduce English-language programmes could mean the opportunities for UK students shrinking beyond the next few years.

The Danish government wants to encourage students to stay in Denmark after graduation, something you might find yourself considering after spending a few months here. Danes are famed for their good work-life balance, and the study culture here is in general quite different from that in the UK. While lecture halls and libraries are packed at 8am for a typically Danish early start, by 4pm most students will have closed their books for the day: staying up late into the night to pore over an essay is generally regarded as a sign of bad time management rather than of dedication.

While Danish students undoubtedly work hard during study hours, they know how to relax when the work is done. Every Friday, thousands of students flock to “Friday bars” located in almost every faculty of the university. The beer here is cheaper than in other bars in the city, at only about £1 or £2 per bottle, and the bars are open from about 2pm to well into the early hours.

There’s no need to worry about not speaking Danish fluently: I have yet to meet a Dane who doesn’t speak English. However, that’s no excuse for not making an effort, and even the rudimentary knowledge you can gain from language-learning apps such as Duolingo or Memrise will help you to find your way around and make a good impression on locals.

Application procedures vary across institutions: at Aarhus, for example, for entry to courses beginning in the next academic year, you can apply online from early November, and the deadline is the beginning of March. Applications are accepted or rejected in May or June, and most courses begin in late August or early September.

For non-EU students, fees at Aarhus University vary by course. As a broad guideline, many arts degrees cost €8,000 (£7,000) per year of tuition, while those in business and social science generally cost €10,000 and those in science and technology €13,500.

While the UK is still in the Brexit transition process, British students will pay neither tuition nor administration fees. So for the next couple of years at least, students from the UK have a fantastic opportunity to do a master’s course and explore a different European culture.

Read more: How to write a master’s application

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