Applying to a UK uni with a French bac - lots of questions!

(31 Posts)
Mistigri Mon 31-Aug-15 09:58:45

My daughter is considering applying for UK universities in due course. She is currently at a French lycée in the first year of her baccalaureat course (this will be the French bac, NOT the international baccalaureat). She has been educated entirely in the French system, but is completely bilingual with a high standard of written English. She has dual citizenship.

At this stage I'm looking for advice about whether it is a sensible and realistic to consider UK universities, from a practical and financial point of view, and also whether there is any preparation we need to do or any pitfalls to avoid for eg in choosing her baccalaureat specialisation and obtaining "home student" status.

She is a good all-round student expected to get a top grade. She is following a special bilingual (French-Spanish) course which will result in her being awarded the Spanish bachillerato simultaneously with the French bac. Her bac "series" will be science (Bac S) and she wants to take biology as her specialist option - but this isn't set in stone.

She is very unsure about what she wants to do - she is thinking about life sciences/medicine but I wouldn't say this is a vocation or passion (her passion is music, but she will not consider a music related course). She might also consider a language course especially a more unusual language like Russian. In terms of ability, languages are probably her strongest point - she speaks and writes English, French and Spanish, and is learning German - but her grades are very even across all her subjects.

It seems to me that the English HE system may not be a good choice for an undecided all-rounder, though a Scottish university might be an alternative worth considering. Does anyone have any views on this?

If she were to consider applying for medicine (and yes, I know how difficult this would be), how would a (very) good bac be regarded versus A levels?

What evidence of a good standard of English will be required/ accepted?

Finally, she is one year ahead of her UK peers and will be 16 turning 17 when she takes her bac. Will UK universites consider taking students under 18? Is it even possible for a 17 year old to organise student finance and contract a loan? Or would she need to take a year out?

Needmoresleep Mon 31-Aug-15 10:43:14

Others will come along with a lot more knowledge of the specificcs. However:

1. Age. It seems to depend slightly on the University. DD knew Lycee CDG students who were accelerated but who seemed to have no problem being accepted by good London Universities. Indeed several lay on specific, alcohol-free, Freshers events. There may be more of an issue at campus Universities.

2. Lots of French students post on The Student Room. Tertiary education in the UK seems to be very much a la mode.

3. Anecdotally, but medicine seems tougher than other subjects. First some have whopping language requirements (Birmingham seems to be expecting A* and A in English Lit and Lang GCSEs, tough even for an English student.) Plus, because of its approach, which does not have vast numbers failing the first year, England seems to be attracting applications from Germany, Italy and elsewhere as well as France.

4. I woud read through a sample of individual University requirements to get a feel from what they are looking for in terms of a French Bac. My understanding is that up to 60% of British applicants won't receive an offer so it won't be any easier for a French student. Standard offer grades are a minimum not a guarantee. Also some French students seem to struggle to understand that rounded applications are important. Its not just grades. You need to demonstrate committment and interest in your subject, including volunteering/shadowing, reading etc.

5. Look at Ireland, and possibly the new Queen Mary's campus in Malta. Ireland is just grades and the scores on their UKCAT equivalent.

LIZS Mon 31-Aug-15 10:48:52

I think she could go at 17 but whether she/you would want her to is another matter. She may be better getting her qualification before applying then some relevant work experience for a year especially for more competitive course like medicine. Iirc she would need to be resident in UK for 3 years to gain home status.

Pneumometer Mon 31-Aug-15 10:53:18

she is thinking about life sciences/medicine

Birmingham seems to be expecting A and A in English Lit and Lang GCSEs, tough even for an English student*

More fundamentally, Birmingham rejects the French Bacc out of hand as an entry qualification for its MBChB.

For guidance, the following qualifications are not acceptable on their own without, for example, A-levels. These include: Bulgarian Diploma; French Baccalaureate (including OIB); German Abitur; Greek (including Cypriot) Apolytirion; Italian Esame Di Stato; Lithuanian Brandos Atestats; Netherlands "Voorbereidend Wetenschappelijk Onderwijs" (VWO) Diploma; Polish Matura; Portugese Diploma de Ensino Secundario; Romanian Baccalaureate; Swedish Slutbetyg från Gymnasieskolan (School Leaving Certificate).

titchy Mon 31-Aug-15 11:00:44

What pneumo said - French Bac not normally regarded as suitable for Medics in UK. We specialise far earlier than other countries and our HE system is designed around this.

In addition medical students have to be 18. They have to have significant relevant work experience. They have to do additional entry tests, BMAT or UKCAT.

Finally a French student cannot be regarded as a home student. She is an EU student and not entitled to maintenance loan, although will gain a loan for her fees. There is no issue with a student under 18 having a fees loan.

FishWithABicycle Mon 31-Aug-15 11:00:55

As an EU resident she already qualifies for home fees - it is only when people are coming from outside the EU that they fall into this pitfall.
I believe she will qualify for a fee loan for up to £9000 per year of her course, repayable on the same terms as UK students, but will be unlikely to qualify for any grants or loans for living expenses from the main UK system (see www.gov.uk/student-finance-calculator) - some EU countries make their system for supporting university students available to those residents who are studying elsewhere but I know nothing about whether France do this.

Needmoresleep Mon 31-Aug-15 11:03:27

LIZS, home status is automatic for students from anywhere in the EU, at least whilst we remain in the EU.

London does seem to be an exception in terms of taking younger students. DD knew a couple of 14 year olds from Asia who were starting at Imperial. Her Lycee friend was starting University when DD was starting sixth form. It was fine. She lived at home and went into college. There is so much diversity anyway that I can't see why being slightly younger would matter. Especially in geeky subjects. Medicine might be a different matter.

RandomSocks Mon 31-Aug-15 11:05:59

That is a lot of questions! Here are my thoughts on some of them.

1. She may need a year out. Each university specifies its rules on age on the website. If she takes a gap year and applies with results in hand, any offers will be unconditional.

2. Where are you resident, OP? If you and your DD are British nationals AND you are living in the EU, you should get home status. That means your DD can apply for both a tuition and a maintenance loan for universities in England/Wales.

3. In Scotland you would pay "home" (ie, Scottish) fees. There would not be the option of a maintenance loan. Furthermore, most first degrees in Scotland are four-year courses.

4. It can be harder to get on to Scottish courses for EU residents, as the number of "home" students that a Scottish university can take is quite limited.

RandomSocks Mon 31-Aug-15 11:11:53

she would need to be resident in UK for 3 years to gain home status.

LIZS, that is not correct. As a dual national, she would have all of the benefits that would accrue to a British national. It depends on where she has been resident. (The OP mentions a "French Lycée", but there are some that are outside of France.) If OP's DD has a British passport and has been resident in the EU, she will be able to obtain "Settled" status.

this thread has a further discussion.

RandomSocks Mon 31-Aug-15 11:13:35

a French student cannot be regarded as a home student.

A dual national will be regarded as British, any second nationality will be ignored.

Humphriescushion Mon 31-Aug-15 11:24:08

I have some limited experience with this. I have helped French students with their applications to UK universities in the past.

It is certainly a realistic option for her ( all the students I helped got offered places, but obviously they were conditional on reaching certain grades so you need to check what grades were required. - you can find this on the university website).

She will pay the same fees as a UK student I.e around 9,000 per annum ( I think the French system is considerably cheaper). if she applies to a Scottish university there are I think no fees or very little so many of the students I see do this ( though it's seems very difficult to get in). The Scottish system seems to offer more flexibility so I would be looking at this in detail. ( I am not an expert on this system).

I think what would concern me as a careers adviser at this stage is that she is not sure ( I know very few students are and I understand this and hate the system that makes you decide at such an early stage) she likes science, medicine and languages ( and music) and would have to decide which path to choose so I would be concentrating on this at the moment ( research into courses, open days, career options, talk to people, teachers, careers advisers etc). I am assuming she is going into premier so has this year to help refine this choice. If she is in premier it is going to be a difficult decision since she needs to start working on her applicantion shortly. ( hopefully she is in the first year). I would be advising a psychometric test ( a good one).

Most of the students I worked with were bilingual but had to English language test which the school was able to organise for them ( sorry can remember the name but is easily found on the university website.

Bear in mind that medicine applications must be in early (15th oct) and I think most university's required the students to do a test ( bmat?) and you will need to apply for and do this. ( I have had many students in tears since they did not know this and missed it.!)

Re age, I have had 17 year old students go to UK universities ( freshers week etc was not quite the same for them! grin

Also agree with INeed re student room and Ireland etc.

Sorry I hope this helps but it is a case of needing to cover quite a lot of ground.

Humphriescushion Mon 31-Aug-15 11:27:39

Sorry I meant to say if she is in terminal it will be difficult and I missed all the posts.

Needmoresleep Mon 31-Aug-15 11:40:37

OP, other posts perhaps unwittingly demonstrate key differences between the UK and France/Europe.

1. Acceleration is rare in the UK. From what we have seen of London Lycee pupils it is far more common to be put up a year. (And stay up when pupils transfer to British private schools - which several do, simply because it seems easier to apply to British Universities with more specialist A levels.) What other posters are not taking into account is that OP's DD will already be used to mixing with fellow students a year older than she is.

2. The British seem to have different expections of both school and University in terms of extra-curricular. One reason we tripped over so many London French was that they did their extra-curricular outside school in Clubs etc. Ditto, French students seem to have a reputation for being quite cliquey at University, and for being appalled at the British drinking culture. In the Uk going away to University is a sort of rite of passage: freshers week, grotty flats, growing up. This is far less the case in London and presumably other courses with large proportions of non UK students. DS' experience is of very little drinking, and a lot of hard work. My assumption this is closer to what a bright student would expect of a French University.

In terms of subject choice, if she wants to study science, she might consider studying as much maths as possible. England is so specialised and it is perfectly possible ot get into a good University having only studied two subjects for the previous two years (double maths and one other). Look at University requirements, and ask in The Student Room.

Mistigri Mon 31-Aug-15 12:21:54

So many replies! Thank you.

To respond to questions:

- She's going into seconde so we have plenty of time. I'm thinking about this early, precisely because she may need to take English lang and lit GCSEs, at a time when she already has a heavy timetable burden due to the extra Spanish language element of her "bachibac" course. She is not eligible for the Cambridge EFL tests, because she is a native speaker.

- We are located in France, both parents are UK nationals.

Humphriescushion what sort of psychometric testing would you advise? She has had some psychometric testing here (they are keen on testing) and all it tells us is that she is an all-rounder!

Realistically, if she does decide on medicine, I will push her to do her initial studying in France. She has the right profile for medicine here (very academically able, good at passing exams), whereas the experience requirement for UK universities would be a difficult hurdle to overcome because of French labour laws/ weaker local labour market. But other UK courses remain attractive, especially in Scotland, but also possibly an English university that runs double honours degrees. Some sort of life science plus a language would suit her well.

I am wondering if there is any merit in considering a post-bac year doing some A levels in the UK.

pastaofplenty Mon 31-Aug-15 12:28:52

Hi OP

Hopefully I can answer some of your questions as DD has just finished lycee and is like you in that she was educated in France, is fully bilingual and is due to start university in 3 weeks time at the age of 17.

In terms of fees your DD will have home status and should exercise the "right to roam" legislation which means she will be eligible for student loans, have home fee status, get a tuition loan and any grants she may be entitled (based on parental income).

To ensure you are ahead of the game make sure you get her a national insurance number when she turns 16, renew her British passport and try and set up a UK bank account for her.

Age has not been an issue for DD or her friends who are also 17 although it is an issue as she can't get a student account (with overdraft and other "perks" that come with it) She has managed to negotiate drinks issue by having friends over 18 - though not sure that's what you want to hear smile

If you apply as an EU citizen to Scottish finance (to get free tuition fees) then she will not get a student loan. However she can apply to Student Finance England to study at a Scottish university and get both tuition fee and student loan through "right to roam" legislation.

Remember that Scottish universities offer four year courses as an MA but they are not masters in the true sense of the word - so you are paying for an extra year.

We are lucky that DD did the OIB so there was no requisite to prove English language proficiency. Some BAC students have to give evidence which is detailed in the offer (e.g.: 16+ in English) or you can get a certificate (think pre-Cambridge one that is run by a lot of lycees as proof.

I think French and other EU universities are tempting because of the lower fees but I don't think you get the same "experience" as British universities. A lot of students live at home, classes are huge, there is little pastoral support and things are not geared to student life. DD has friends who started at French universities and are very academic but have dropped out because of lack of support and disappointment at teaching/class sizes/strict French system/lack of originality etc.. several are now on gap years and are going to British universities.

Like your DD mine is also an all-rounder (did BAC ES) and likes the arts, music and social sciences (good at science but not interested in it). I think the British system offers a far greater choice of degrees, combined honours etc... that should get her interest.

DD had friends who choice medicine and/or Oxbridge and found that the selection process was very hard - especially short-notice for interviews and events that clashed with French timetable/curriculum. That said a TB with overall of 17+ in all science subjects and maths should be acceptable. If she is able to attain this then it is worth a shot (if that's what she wants)

The problem with Bac S is that it is very popular and the percentage of students getting TB is higher than in L and ES series (largely because the other two subjects are more subjective) so the offers for Bac S will be higher.

If she enjoys languages then I would say perhaps look at a joint honours using her preferred language, however if like my DD she is sick to death of learning a language then I would say avoid. It's great that our DD's are bilingual (mine did Spanish as well) but that's (in mine and DD's opinion) a life skill and advantage and not something to base a degree choice on - unless she loves learning languages. IYSWIM

That's all I can think of now - good luck with whatever she decides.

Humphriescushion Mon 31-Aug-15 12:40:36

Oh good I am glad she is in second and you are thinking about this now.
I would recommend the Morrisby ( but I have a vested interest since i am a qualified to administer this test and do this in France if i feel it is appropriate.)

I don't know if the tests she has done are similar or not so maybe have a look and see if it is similar. It is quite in depth ( 3 hours). It is possible to get an All Rounder result in which case the feedback interview and possibly I a guidance interview would be invaluable. ( schools careers adviser? ) Morrisby also now offer this in their site it is shorter version of what I would offer but maybe of merit. I am honestly not trying to sell you this grin especially since she may have done some in depth test already but is worth a look.

Www.morrisby.co.uk

Mistigri Mon 31-Aug-15 12:50:51

Thank you pasta.

She didn't want to do the English OIB and has instead opted for the Spanish equivalent, as she is near-fluent in Spanish. This does pose a problem when it comes to demonstrating English language capability, because English will not even be her first "foreign" language at the bac! However I am confident that she would easily pass an English language GCSE. We have been told that she cannot take the Cambridge exams because she is a native speaker.

If she stays in France to study I think she would be aiming for a prépa then grande école, rather than university, for the reasons you mention (unless she chooses to study medicine).

What you say about status re Scottish uni fees is interesting - so you can chose between no fees but self-funding living costs, versus a full loan to cover fees + living costs?

Mistigri Mon 31-Aug-15 12:57:40

humphriescushion she hasn't done that sort of psychometric testing, only cognitive tests. Thank you for the link. We will certainly consider professional testing/ advice. Academically she is a genuine all-rounder, and her interests span arts, social sciences and science, which makes it all the more difficult for her. On the plus side, this means that the French system is ideal for her as she doesn't need to drop anything and her bac result will not be brought down by a weak subject, but she can't postpone the decision forever.

pastaofplenty Mon 31-Aug-15 13:13:44

Hi Mistrigri

Yes that's my understanding.

She can apply to a Scottish university and get funding through Student Finance England as a UK applicant (right to roam) and will get a tuition fee and student loan (covering fees and giving her money to live on)

Alternatively she can apply to Student Finance Scotland as an EU student and get her tuition fees free but not be eligible for student loan for living costs.

There is a quota on the number of home (ie: Scottish) and EU students though and this means her chances of getting a place are limited.

RandomSocks Mon 31-Aug-15 13:54:38

Hang on, did I get this right?

so you can chose between no fees but self-funding living costs, versus a full loan to cover fees + living costs?

My understanding is that this is part of the choice between Scotland vs England.

My understanding is that a British person living in the EU that gets a place at a Scottish university will be eligible for "Home" fees (ie, the same as residents of Scotland) (because of living in the EU, right to roam, etc). The loan is through SFS.

If that student applies to a university in England, they are also eligible for "home" fees of £9,000. The student loan would cover the fees plus some maintenance. The loan is through SFE.

Alternatively, if they have a place at a Scottish university, but get finance through Student Finance England, they would pay RUK fees? Why would anyone resident in the EU do that? Genuine question.

BoboChic Mon 31-Aug-15 17:24:11

She can do IELTS to demonstrate her level of English. In all likelihood one or more universities would make IELTS part of a conditional offer. It is more straightforward in many ways to take IELTS than a GCSE - you can take and retake IELTS as often as you like, there are sessions almost every week, results come out 13 days after taking the test.

I agree with PP that her chances of getting a place at a Scottish university as an EU non-fee paying candidate are very weak and she should not put more than one Scottish university down as one of her 5 UCAS choices unless she wants to play a high-risk/high-return game.

BoboChic Mon 31-Aug-15 17:43:24

She might like ESPS at UCL? A very competitive and popular course with all rounders who really like languages but want course content focused on social sciences and want a year abroad.

fussychica Mon 31-Aug-15 23:14:59

Ds was educated in Spain, did the Spanish Bac. He got very good offers but for a multiple languages degree and went to a uk uni as he wanted "the experience". I suspect the broad nature of the Spanish Bac, which Ds liked, would not be so suitable for medicine or some specialist degrees. He got full fees and maintenance under right to roam rules. Did IGCSE English privately which made things easier.

pastaofplenty Mon 31-Aug-15 23:40:30

Randomsocks -

If you wanted to go to Scotland and apply through Scottish Finance you would not exercise your right to roam - that only applies if you want to get finance as a British citizen but (for example) your parents had taken you to live in an EU country when younger.

If you wanted the tuition fees to be paid by Scottish Finance then you would be classed as an EU student not English (or Welsh)

You would have free tuition but would have to find living costs/

If you choose "right to roam" you can only do so via Student Finance England - in which case you would get a loan to pay your tuition fees (in England, Wales, Scotland or NI) and a maintenance loan to cover living costs. There are two loans via SFE - the tuition fee one and the maintenance one - in total the maximum you can borrow is (depending on where you go to university e.g: London and parental income) around £15K per annum.

People who apply to Scottish university but keep UK status and apply via Student Finance England do so as it's the only way they can get a maintenance loan. Also they stand a better chance of getting a place due to quota system.

DD applied to two Scottish universities and 3 English ones - we spoke to both Student Finance England and Scottish Finance and they were very helpful, but they said decide on your "fee status" before deciding on what universities to put down.

Mistigri Tue 01-Sep-15 02:50:49

fussychica do you have any knowledge of the Spanish university system? Did you consider it for your son? (It is an option for us as DD will have the bachillerato thanks to the double diploma course she is doing, but I know nothing about Spanish HE).

bobochic thank you, that's useful. She is fortunate to have a lot of options as she could also make applications via the French APB as well as UCAS.

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