UCAS to include European Universities

UCAS has announced that it will now allow UK students to apply to universities in the rest of Europe, in a major shake-up of its admissions system.

Currently, students from the UK wishing to take a course at a European institution have to apply directly to that university, rather than through the UCAS administration process.

These universities would also participate in the clearing system, which offers students vacant places remaining after the release of A-level results.

UCAS have not disclosed which universities might be joining their system, but a spokesman has said that those accepted would have to "demonstrate that they meet equivalent standards to those in the UK".

The quality of education in many European universities is generally high. Twelve German universities featured in the most recent Times Higher Education World University rankings top 200, placing the country behind only the USA and UK globally for the number of top ranking higher education institutions.

Some European universities are already popular with UK students, such as the Dutch university of Maastricht, which has been attracting increasing numbers of UK students.

With tuition fees currently standing at £9,000 per year in the UK, concerns have been raised that lower fees across the rest of Europe might tempt as many as one in ten prospective students abroad. In the Netherlands, many degree courses cost less than £4,000, while Germany abolished tuition fees altogether last year.

Many European universities also offer courses in English, including Paris Saclay, a new mega-university just to the south of Paris, which will accept its first cohort of students in Autumn 2015.

Ian Fordham, co-founder of the think tank Education Foundation predicted that UCASís decision will "have a pretty significant impact on the higher education sector given the level of tuition fees already there."

He also warned that "[i]n the short term you might not see a big spike, but I think in the next couple of years it could take out a good 10 per cent of students, at least.

"I think thereís a chance of a brain drain; on the whole the top universities would stay stable, but those middle-tier universities and those out of the Russell Group would probably be hardest hit as European universities may well have the edge on them."

Leland Hui, a second year law student, said of the changes: "I think that encouraging students to move around Europe is a good idea, and it would have been great to have the option of applying outside the UK through UCAS.

"However, Iím not sure how much difference this will actually make, as I think most prospective students want to stay in the UK.

"Also, people have always been able to apply to European universities, just through different channels."

This announcement comes as figures show record numbers of students applied to UK universities for admission in Autumn 2015.

Figures indicate a two per cent increase from last year, with 592,290 applicants, almost 10,000 more than the previous record set just before the rise in tuition fees.

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