Why British students are choosing to go Dutch

Low fees and better job prospects are behind a tenfold leap in UK applications to Maastricht University

The fees are lower and job prospects are considerably better, so it is little wonder that those who have already made the choice describe it as a "no brainer".

More than 400 school leavers plan to desert the British university system and head for Maastricht University in the Netherlands this autumn – 10 times the number who did last year.

Charles Waciuma, 23, from Reading, who will be starting an International Business degree this September, is one of them. "It would be wrong to say that fees have not played a part in my decision," he said, and he is not alone.

With the prospect of tuition fees rising to £9,000 a year in many English universities from September 2012, Mr Waciuma predicted that many others would follow in his footsteps next year. As he had been working for a few years since leaving school, the prospect of running up serious debts at university was not an appealing one.

Colin Behr, 23, from Devon, who is in the second year of a European studies degree at Maastricht, said: "It's not only the £9,000 fee but the cost of living accommodation, too. Here it would only be a modest debt."

The fees rise is not the only thing driving the UK student exodus. Theresa Bullock, 19, studying knowledge engineering, is from Edinburgh and would presently receive free tuition courtesy of the Scottish government.

"My parents thought I was mad when I opted for a university that was charging fees," she said, adding that she was swayed by the quality of the course and the chance to study overseas. Maastricht's current fees are £1,550 a year compared with a top-up fee level in England of £3,240.

Ms Bullock also pointed out that the Government's spending squeeze on social sciences and the humanities was putting some students off. Funding for teaching in these areas is to be completely withdrawn as they rely on fees income for their survival.

Another attraction is the fact that 85 per cent of Maastricht graduates are in a decent job within a year of leaving university. The students receive a grant from the Dutch government equivalent to €260 (£232) a month if they decide to work 32 hours a week while they study. Ms Bullock delivers post and also works in the university's communications department, while Mr Behr works in a call centre.

There is, however, what some students may consider a downside. Maastricht sets high standards from the very first year of its courses and anyone not meeting them is asked to leave.

Under Dutch law, the university must accept all applicants who get the necessary qualifications – there is no turning away of thousands of students with straight A grades at A-level as happens at Oxford and Cambridge. A rigorous check on whether the student is up to the standards demanded by the course after they have enrolled is a way of keeping a lid on numbers.

Martin Paul, the president of the university, said: "It's not ruthless. We do offer counselling and help and the possibility of an alternative course that may be more suitable to their needs."

Maastricht has been an architect of its own success in recruiting UK students, sending representatives to a series of sixth-form careers days over the past year. One of its British team members is currently in the process of visiting 25 schools.

She said that on her travels she often meets rival recruiters from Harvard and Princeton universities in the United States – a further sign that overseas institutions are keen to raise their numbers of British students.

Maastricht is installing a fast-track admissions scheme for prospective UK students this year, which goes live during the clearing period after they have received their A-level grades.

Further forays into the UK are being planned for the autumn term, as student minds are concentrated by the impending fees rises. "I think [British universities] think we're smart," said Mr Paul. "Taking 400 applications is not going to have that much impact on UK universities' recruitment. It is a small number when compared with the whole."

"Smart" is also a term applied to the university, which was only founded in 1976, when it changed its name from the university of Lindberg after the signing of the Maastricht Treaty. "We thought Maastricht would be a name that people remembered," said Mr Paul, "rather than a German cheese."

Maastricht is a university town like Cambridge – there are 15,500 students in a town of 120,000 inhabitants.

Academics at the university cite its "problem-based" method of studying as the key reason behind its recruitment success. In one example The Independent witnessed, two groups of students were told to prepare separately for a debate on the effectiveness of organisations such as the IMF and the World Bank and were given a pass or fail based on their presentations.

"I like to call it the Dr House school of learning," said Mark Stout, co-dean of University College Maastricht, in a reference to Hugh Laurie's eccentric TV medic, who favours a hands-on approach. "Problem solving," said one academic, "is better than sitting or not sitting in a lecture hall for three hours."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 Teacher Required in Grays

£21000 - £40000 per annum + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 tea...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee