Dutch university sees tenfold rise in UK applicants

The number of British teenagers applying to one of Europe's leading universities has risen dramatically this year. Maastricht University in the Netherlands has seen a tenfold increase with more than 400 applications from UK students compared with just 35 at the same time last year.

A key factor in the rise is the cost of studying at Maastricht: only £1,526 a year, compared with £3,240 at present at English universities.

Many of those who applied are fearful of their chances of getting a UK place this September as the number of applications has soared as people attempt to beat the rise in tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year next September.

Officials believe as many as 200,000 applicants could be turned down for a place in the UK next September.

Lauren Williams, 20, from Chippenham in Wiltshire, is one of hundreds of Britons attending a "speed dating" open day at Maastricht today.

Lecturers will be lined up to give details of their courses to the hundreds of UK students applying – to help them make their minds up.

In Ms Williams' case, though, she has already been accepted to study arts and culture at the university.

"To be honest, I'd never really considered Maastricht," she said. "I tried going to university last year but it didn't quite work out. Then my dad saw a piece on TV about Maastricht attracting UK students.

"Tuition fees are so much cheaper and the economy here is so much better, so there are more job prospects than in the UK."

Ms Williams, who has a B and two Cs at A-level, added: "It is really, really beautiful here. We drove across Belgium to get here and the closer we got, the more beautiful it became."

Maastricht does not close admissions for this autumn until August and is expecting the number of UK applicants to rise. Last year it eventually took 106 undergraduates – up from 64 the previous year.

Ms Williams said that successful applicants would be tested every eight weeks on their course.

"If you don't keep up, then that's it," she said. "It's one way of keeping you on your toes."

Courses are also taught in English which makes them more attractive to British applicants.

"A world of choice is opening up for well qualified students in the UK who want to stand out from the crowd," said Martin Paul, the university's president.

"Choosing a top-quality university in another country can broaden their horizons and give them an international experience that is greatly valued by employers."

Academics in the UK are predicting a massive student "brain drain" next year as students seek cheaper options overseas.

One leading state school, the Hockerill Anglo-European College in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, has already hired a student counsellor to advise school leavers on higher education opportunities overseas.