Abroad after Graduation, English Style
West, Charlotte, International Educator
DUCATION ABROAD MOST OFTEN HAPPENS DURING UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION. But with graduate education in foreign countries adopting English-only riculums, students have yet another kind of education abroad opportunity: earning a master's degree overseas-in English.
For many students considering studying abroad, it's not practical or feasible to learn Icelandic, Hungarian, or Dutch just to spend a year at a foreign university. To attract international students who would normally choose to study abroad in the United States or the United Kingdom, many European countries now offer full-degree programs in English-which means that U.S. students can study abroad after college and earn a master's degree overseas in their native tonguetransforming Europe into a serious competitor in the international education marketplace.
Although courses for exchange students and postgraduate research posts in English are nothing new, full-degree programs have been on the rise all over Europe. But nowhere has it taken off like it has in the Netherlands and the Nordic countries. In 2001-2002, the Brussels-based Academic Cooperation Association (ACA) conducted a survey of English-language degree programs at 2,000 European universities and colleges. "At that time, we were talking about a relatively small but fast-growing phenomenon," says Bernd Waechter, director of ACA.
He says that the number of English-language degree programs only made up about 3 percent of all programs in non-Anglophone when the survey was completed, but more than half of the programs were created in the two years prior to the survey. "The leaders at the time, measured against the size of the country, were Finland and die Netiierlands. The Nordic countries were generally very strong, a middle group of Germany, Austria, and countries in the center of Europe, and practically nothing in the south," Waechter says.
The ACA is currently conducting a second survey, this time expanded to include 2,500 European institutions. While the results are still preliminary, Waechter says the number of English-language degree programs in Europe has approximately tripled since the first survey, and they estimate that these account for 10 to 20 percent of all higher education provision in Europe.
While the Bologna Process has played an important role in national higher education reform, the push for English-language degree programs in Europe is not just related to inter-European initiatives. Waechter says that internationalization in general and Bologna in particular are "driven by the realization that there is a global higher education market."
"I think the institutions would have created these programs even if they hadn't introduced the bachelor's and master's programs. They want the international students. You try to fish around the world and your angling rod must be English," he says.
Universities have several motivations to create degree programs in English, including tuition revenue from students from outside of the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). Students within the EU and EEA pay the same fees as home students.
Education in Finland and Sweden is currently tuition free. Both countries are discussing various tuition schemes for international students though implementation is at least a few years away. Denmark introduced tuition for non-EU students in fall 2006, and the Netherlands has long charged fees to foreign students fees diough it switched from a partially subsidized model to full-cost tuition in the early 2000s.
Other factors include recruitment for research positions and to attract qualified students from abroad. Another reason is to create an international environment at home where the presence of international students becomes the rule rather than the exception. As Waechter puts it, universities "want to not just internationalize but to become international institutions."
The Finnish higher education system comprises a dual system of universities and institutions of applied sciences, known as polytechnics. …