Studying in Europe

(32 Posts)
breward Sat 21-May-16 20:28:07

DD is looking at studying on an English taught course in Europe. The Bsc in Actuarial Science at University of Amsterdam is top of her list.

Does anyone have experience of a child attending univ in Europe? The tuition fees are most appealing thing at the moment, but the course look great too.

OP’s posts: |
lifeisunjust Sat 21-May-16 21:11:36

I don't have personal experience yet but am like to have in 3 years. However I work at a school where quite a few go to universities in the Netherlands each year.

You can get a student grant for the Netherlands too, if you also work part time.

All the parents I know have their adult children at Maastricht at the moment, all happy.

Amsterdam will be much more expensive to live in than Tilburg or Groningen though.

Is your daughter open to learning Dutch? It's not too difficult if you're already quite good at languages. It will be a huge advantage to be able to speak Dutch even basics. My 14 year old post GCSE standard Dutch and 10 year old is just about able to hold a conversation in Dutch, so it does make a difference in being confident about letting them go to the Netherlands.

Have you been to Amsterdam or Netherlands? The Dutch are very direct, haven't a clue how to queue.

hayita Sat 21-May-16 21:14:57

Why do you think the course looks great? It is taught by an economics/business department, while most UK actuarial courses would be taught primarily by mathematics departments (the latter tends to be respected more by actuarial employers).

UK undergraduate courses can allow you to be exempt from certain actuarial exams, based on the exams you took at university. The Dutch course doesn't allow that - they encourage students to do a masters phase to get accreditation (but are not actually specific about whether this is equivalent to UK actuarial qualifications).

The Dutch course is a cash cow and entrance requirements are pretty low. Any Dutch student who passes their university entrance diploma with a maths component (VWO) will get in, but just passing that diploma is roughly equivalent to Cs at A level. Actually the UvA website says that they will also accept Maths A levels at A, B and C - but pretty much no top 30 UK university accepts students for maths/actuarial science courses with less than an A at maths A level!

Why would a UK employer take a graduate from this course (whose level they would find pretty hard to evaluate) rather than a graduate from a known UK university?

BTW it is expensive for students to live in Amsterdam. You might like to look carefully into living costs, and the difficulties in obtaining suitable student accommodation.

Pythonesque Sat 21-May-16 21:59:48

Definitely make sure she has properly researched what the course will do for her in the longer term. What is her goal and will it actually help her get there? Professional qualifications are not all equal, if she wants to work in the UK suggest she checks what the next steps would be after that course, would she get registration with relevant professional bodies for example.

A somewhat different situation, but a friend of mine studied psychology in the Netherlands, having transferred there (from outside Europe) for some particular areas she was interested in; her Dutch was assessed as fluent enough to get the full qualification (rather than a reduced ? certificate). However, to complete the course she had to do a placement - and not only would nowhere take her on, but the institution didn't seem to do anything to make sure she could do it and she didn't get the qualification she thought she was going to have. Returned to country of origin instead.

breward Sun 22-May-16 13:52:10

Thank you for all your comments. Certainly food for thought.

I have two nephews who graduated from Russell Group universities with excellent degrees and neither have secured graduate jobs or ones requiring even A levels (eg working in a garden centre), so work prospects are important.

DD loves learning German so that is what swayed her towards foreign study. However, maths and statistics is where her heart lies.

At her Y11 careers fair all the prospective graduate employers said study a degree that you are passionate about then come and speak to us. They did not seem to mind if you had a degree in Music or Geography, just that you had studied to degree level. Having a European angle to your CV I would have thought would have been a plus point.

OP’s posts: |
hayita Sun 22-May-16 14:05:54

They did not seem to mind if you had a degree in Music or Geography, just that you had studied to degree level.

But this is not true for actuarial training jobs: the standard route in is via a numerate undergraduate degree, usually maths/statistics related. Employers will also distinguish between different types of UK institution and different class degrees.

I also don't really believe that the degree subject doesn't matter at all for "numerate" jobs: some degree subjects are clearly favoured over others. (As a maths academic I would also say that it is very unusual for our graduates not to get decent graduate jobs.)

Having a European angle isn't really a plus point when UK employers can't benchmark your qualifications. Nor is it unusual these days to be fluent in another language/connected with other countries: a fair fraction of UK actuarial students are not British and are already multilingual. In fact, in general, there are quite a lot of international students and ethic minorities studying math, statistics/actuarial science etc, as such subjects are more highly valued in other countries.

PattyPenguin Sun 22-May-16 14:25:14

The other thing to keep in mind is the upcoming referendum.

The only reason fees for UK students are low at public universities in the Netherlands is that the UK is currently a member of the EU. Under EU laws, the Dutch government can't legally treat citizens of other EU countries differently from its own citizens, so the fees for UK and Dutch students are the same.

No-one actually knows what will happen if there's a majority in favour of the UK leaving the EU. We don't even know when the UK would officially leave and its citizens stop being EU citizens. When that happens, though, either the Dutch government or the universities will probably be able to decide for themselves how much they will charge UK students.


lifeisunjust Sun 22-May-16 14:48:28

Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are also non EU countries but they all have agreements with EU countries for nationals to study in the EU at the same cost as EU nationals. It is likely that would be the situation for GBR nationals, were the UK to leave the EU.

TaIkinPeace Sun 22-May-16 16:55:14

It is likely that would be the situation for GBR nationals, were the UK to leave the EU.
After many years of negotiation maybe,
but the UK will be punished if it votes to leave
DO NOT bank on being able to study in Europe for several years if there is a Brexit vote.

hayita Sun 22-May-16 17:00:49

Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are also non EU countries but they all have agreements with EU countries for nationals to study in the EU at the same cost as EU nationals.

And note that a condition of their agreements is freedom of movement i.e. allowing EU nationals to live and work in their countries. Yet freedom of movement is precisely what many of those voting for Brexit don't want. One can't assume that in the case of Brexit we could cut a deal that allows our students access to EU education at EU rates of fees.

faffinabout Sun 22-May-16 17:34:59

Can't comment on whether studying in the Netherlands is a good idea re: future employment, however my DS is currently studying in Amsterdam (we're from the UK) so I can give our perspective.

He's coming to the end of his first year. He doesn't speak any other languages apart from English. He took Dutch lessons through the uni (small cost) and enjoyed them, but finds everyone he meets socially wants to practice their English on him so he isn't getting much chance to practice Dutch!

Finding accommodation was very hard (though your DD might be provided with some through her uni??). He stayed in a hostel for a few weeks, then a house share with two working adults. It was an hour from the uni and he found it hard. Also, he found it difficult to make friends coz he wasn't living with students.

He moved at Xmas to a place much nearer his uni, and has made a small group of friends. He loves the course and the city, and doesn't regret it. But I do think the stress of being abroad and trying to sort accommodation and having no friends was hard for him. He's someone that's happy with his own company, and finds himself stuff to do, but if he'd been a real people person I'm not sure he'd have coped.

It may be entirely different for your DD of course. We send him £550 a month which covers accommodation and living expenses. It's a lot of money and although he will benefit re: much less loan, it would've been cheaper for us if he'd stayed in the uk. He recently got a job, just washing up, but that'll help.

Finally, you have to pay the £1500 tuition fees upfront, end Aug I think it was, then have to apply for the loan before end Jan. You can't apply until you have a registered address in Amsterdam, which he didn't get for ages. With his first accommodation he wasn't registered because he was staying in an extra room. Apparently that's not uncommon.

A lot to think about! He does like it though. He got an old bike for twenty euros and cycles everywhere. On a set day of the week everyone puts any unwanted stuff outside their house for anyone who wants it to collect, and he got his furniture free that way. The uni is very multicultural and he has made friends from all over the world.

Needmoresleep Sun 22-May-16 20:55:48

Its was not the studying abroad that raised my eyebrows but the actuarial science and a course that was not insisting on top maths grades at school.

You need to research this. As a astarting point here is a list of degrees which provide exemption to the Institute of Actuaries exams.


You will note some degrees provide a lot of exemptions, some only a few, and that some are Masters degrees. If a course is not listed I would check carefully the career path expected.

DS has opted for a number of maths/stats courses as part of his LSE economics degree, so much so that his first couple of years have overlapped a lot with peers taking actuarial sciences. He has enjoyed the maths element far more than he expected to, and is glad he will be able to further specialise in his third year, and very likely to end up is a mathematical economics role so not too far removed from actuarial science. But some of his friends have been wilting. The courses are tough and, from what he says, its all quite specialised so definitions are very close together. He is working very very hard.

I am no expert but my advice would be to get on the best regarded course you can, but one with escape routes. Becoming an actuary is tough so you might as well learn as much as you can at University. And escape routes so that it you find you don't enjoy the endless statistics, and again it seems to be as much about personality type as ability, you can switch to something else. (Finance or accounting are common options.)

LIZS Sun 22-May-16 21:03:14

Iirc you still need to take actuarial exams to qualify as an Actuary although a degree may give some exemptions. Most enter the profession following other mathematical based degrees.

hayita Sun 22-May-16 21:33:45

Finance or accounting are common options.

Agree on looking for a course which has good escape routes. MORSE (maths with operational research, statistics and economics) is one good choice. Also Maths with Actuarial Sciences courses usually allow you to switch back to straight maths or maths with statistics or maths with economics or maths with finance. Any of these options would generally be a bit better regarded than accounting. It's also sometimes possible to switch into a business/management type degree from actuarial sciences, if the student wants to get away from maths.

There are lots of good UK options: from the list given, Warwick, Southampton etc all give lots of exemptions from actuarial exams but still allow flexibility to transfer out if needed.

FoggyBottom Sun 22-May-16 21:43:15

The European experience of university is very different from tat of the UK. There is very little student accommodation on campus; most students live at home or in flatshares, not necessarily with other students. There is a much lower level of care & progress tutoring. You have to be very self-directed & motivated - I've seen very bright young people in my family really flounder in universities in France & Germany, until they get into a more 'grown up' way of studying after the cramming of their schools. In the UK, we'd be onto that - in most European universities, there just aren't the staff, nor the ethos to do that.

Classes are generally much larger in other European universities, also. Students just take longer to do their closely looking at what we do in England & Wales.

But I'd say the main thing is the recognition of degree and other qualifications.

Why not look at the same sort of degree in the UK with a year abroad?

You do get what you pay for; I'd say it's a false economy to get a degree in another country simply because it's cheaper, if your eventual ambition is to work in the UK.

2rebecca Sun 22-May-16 22:18:32

Heriot Watt in Scotland do an actuarial science Bsc. The 2 actuaries I know did maths degrees at Edinburgh uni.

Needmoresleep Sun 22-May-16 22:26:11

Yes but Scottish degrees are no cheaper than in England and it takes four years. Other higher ranked courses are only three. OP is looking to save costs.

hayita Mon 23-May-16 08:38:05

Also bear in mind that while the Amsterdam degree programme is three years many students don't actually finish their degrees in three years, but take four or even five. It is not like here where very high percentages of students complete in time, with a small fraction of students needing to repeat years because of failing some modules. There is much more of a "go slow" culture in Holland and elsewhere in Europe.

FoggyBottom Mon 23-May-16 16:43:14

Exactly hayita Finishing in the 4 years of a mainland Europe degree (the minimum number of semesters you can do it in) is unusual.

esornep Mon 23-May-16 18:36:33

FoggyBottom - since the Bologna agreement undergraduate degrees in many European countries (including Holland) are 3 years, i.e. six semesters. The proportion of students finishing in 3 years is rather higher on (cash cow) programmes taught in English, but is still only around 70-90% typically.

FoggyBottom Mon 23-May-16 21:31:54

Not all UG degrees (certainly not those members of my family in France & Germany are doing!) are in the UK 3 year model. The Netherlands seems to have been quick to try to capitalise on England & Wales fee paying.

And I'm not surprised that completion rates (within the 3 years' time) are so low. The level of teaching & support is quite different. Not worse, but definitely different.

breward Thu 02-Jun-16 13:21:03

Faffinabout, it was really interesting to hear about your son's experience of Amsterdam. What course is he studying?

Paying 6K for a degree at a highly regarded university must be the biggest plus. I am sure there are plenty of cash cow degrees in the UK but the students end up with 30K + in debt.

Other people must have some positive stories about European study.

OP’s posts: |
titchy Thu 02-Jun-16 13:29:55

You're not really listening to anyone are you OP?

breward Thu 02-Jun-16 17:54:41

I am listening but when you have a daughter set on European study, rather than giving her just negatives it would be nice to give some positive points of view from people who have also followed this path.

I am sure there are many other young people who are looking at alternatives to the traditional degree route who would be interested in this thread.

Just like the EU referendum, it is good to hear both sides, not just one.

OP’s posts: |
titchy Thu 02-Jun-16 18:12:13

Even if it's likely to be detrimental to her career?

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