29/12/2011 06:01 GMT

Students Will 'Look Overseas To Find Value For Money University Courses'

Growing numbers of teenagers will consider studying overseas in the future to find wide-ranging courses and good value for money, it has been suggested.

The United States and European nations such as the Netherlands are already becoming increasingly popular among students looking to be more "savvy" in their university choice, according to private school leaders.

With fees for English universities set to rise to £9,000, value for money is high on the agenda, as is the chance to study a broader course, such as liberal arts.

While the numbers are still small, private school leaders said they expect to see an increase in those opting for foreign universities.

Peter McDonald, housemaster and adviser on overseas higher education at Magdalen College, a private boys school which also caters to girls in the sixth form, told Press Association: "Things are beginning to change, in that this year we are seeing, in particular, one applicant who is dead set on the States.

"Out of a year group of 130, there's also growing interest in Irish universities, Trinity College Dublin and Irish medical schools."

Mr McDonald said: "Students are becoming far more savvy as regards all the options, and they're looking at value for money very differently.

"They are asking 'Are we going to get good teaching, good contact hours..?'."

King's College School (KCS) in Wimbledon, a private boys school in south London with co-educational sixth form, has seen the numbers of students applying to the US double in the last three years.

In 2009, seven applied. This year that had risen to 12, and next year 20 are expected to submit applications.

Headmaster Andrew Halls told the Press Association: "There's a growing curiosity in the US. To give our figures, at a lower-sixth talk about applying to US universities recently, 60 out of 180 went along."

He added: "There's much more awareness of a world elsewhere."

At Godolphin and Latymer, an independent girls school in west London, around 15% of sixth-formers are showing an interest in the US this year.

Last year, just under 10% went to universities such as Brown, Harvard and Stanford.

A school spokesman said: "It's certainly a growing area for us. We've always had girls that go to Trinity, that's not new.

"But they are increasingly looking to Europe, we've had one going to Madrid."

Helen Wright, headmistress of St Mary's Calne, a fee-paying girls school in Wiltshire, said they are experiencing a "significant rise" in interest.

"There has been a resurgence in interest in admission to US universities and a burgeoning new interest in European universities," she said.

"Students are now very aware - with the squeeze in UK places and rise in tuition fees - that they might need to hedge their bets, so we are finding that a student who might previously have stuck to Ucas (the UK university admissions process) is now doing that, plus applying for an art foundation course, plus applying abroad so that they have a number of options.

"With the European universities, it is not just that they are now marketing themselves very effectively and their fees are much lower but also because our girls are developing a more global outlook and realising that international experience is highly regarded and will give them a career advantage.

"Universities offering English-speaking courses like Maastricht are becoming particularly popular, not least because they also offer the potential of a wider and different mix of courses."

Zoe Baker-Peng, a sixth-former at KCS, is applying to a number of US universities, including Harvard.

Unlike the UK, where students usually pick one subject for their degree, US students often do not specialise immediately.

Ms Baker-Peng said: "My reasons for applying are because of the liberal arts, and I like the idea of being able to study a wide range of subjects, rather than limiting myself to one."

Fellow KCS student Sophia-Pia Zombanakis said: "I'm not sure what I want to study. If I go to the US, I'm able to study lots of different things - classics, English, art history - so I can explore all of those different academic subjects as well as new things."

Mr McDonald said: "There's very much a call for liberal arts courses, I think there's really very much a market for it, I think people are wanting to go for that a lot more now, they don't want to pin themselves down."

He said the UK can meet this market, and there are already signs that universities are looking to offer such degrees.