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UK universities woo Pinoy students

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It probably is every serious Filipino student’s dream to pursue further studies abroad, especially in the United Kingdom where some of the world’s best universities — University of Oxford, University of Cambridge and Imperial College of London, to name a few — are located.

Although quite expensive — figures run from P900,000 to P1.3 million, including living expenses — it could be considered cost-effective in the long run, according to Mike Cabigon, program officer of the British Council.

In a recent interview with GMA News Online, Cabigon said this is because unlike in other countries, masteral courses in the UK only take a year to finish. In the Philippines and other countries, masteral courses usually take two years to finish.

“Parents from private schools are actually looking at options for their kids for universities in the UK,” Cabigon said, adding many Philippine companies are beginning to appreciate the convenience of having their executives take a year off work to take further studies in the UK.

Cabigon added that the requirements for studying in the UK are not too difficult to meet—basically just an undergraduate degree plus a couple of years of work experience.

The British Council was one of the organizations featured during the “Conference on UK Higher Education and Corporate Training” last February 14.

According to the British Council, close to 500,000 international students study in the UK each year.

“Every year close to 500,000 students from 200 nations come to the UK to study at a school, college or university and 600,000 more come to do an English language course,” it said.

Based on the 2012 Stock Estimate of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, there are 218,777 Filipinos in the UK.

In the past, there have been controversies about Filipinos pretending to go to the UK as students but are actually bent on working there.

However, in an earlier interview with GMA News Online, Philippine Ambassador to the UK Enrique Manalo said the loophole that allowed some Filipinos to do that has been closed.

“In 2011, the UK instituted changes in its immigration rules governing those acquiring student visas. The changes include limiting the number of hours they can engage in part-time work, redefining the maximum period of stay in the UK, and strict vetting of  educational institutions to ensure that they are legitimate,” he had said.

The website of the UK Council for International Students Affairs (UKCISA) provides detailed practical information for students from outside the UK. The topics cover everything from visa fees to finding financial support for one’s studies.

The UKCISA, a national advisory body serving the interests of international students, said one of the first problems that international students may encounter is culture shock.

To help students cope with culture shock and overcome loneliness, the agency advised “keeping in touch with home” via the phone or Internet and having “familiar things from home” such as photographs.

The agency also warned that stress from the differences in food, weather and customs may take a toll on one’s health and urged students to take care of themselves and know that they are entitled to free medical treatment under the UK state health system.

Opportunities for Filipino nurses, other students

Meanwhile, in an interview with GMA News Online, Drewe Phillips, head of International Development of the University of South Wales, said some Filipino students, mostly nurses, enrol in their masters program.

Phillips said there are “very good career opportunities for nurses in the UK. Many of our Filipino students are applying to the Gulf states, Australia, and the UK.”

“We offer a 2,000 pound scholarship for our masters programs. A cost for a masters in nursing is 10,000 pounds after the scholarship,” he said.

“We offer two options: a masters for 12 months, and a masters for 18 months. The 18-month program has a six-month internship built into the masters course,” Phillips added.

“What were finding is all our Filipino nurses are coming to study with us with a great wealth of experience. By virtue of that, all our Filipino nurses are gaining scholarships,” he said.

For the scholarships, Phillips said they look at the students’ academic profile, clinical profile, years of experience, and their personal statements.

Phillips said aside from masters in nursing, their university also offers courses in the creative industries,  media journalism, photography, theater production, fine arts, business programs and engineering programs that range from aerospace to aeronautical, among other courses.

Asked about the ballpark figure for their courses, he said it was approximately 9,700 pounds for their undergraduate programs and 10,000 pounds for their masters programs.

Affordable courses

Meanwhile, Julie Edgar of Northumbria University, told GMA News Online that their university has more affordable courses as they are located well away from London – about 250 miles north of UK’s capital – and they are actually closer to Scotland.

“Different universities have different charges but masters programs there are institutions that start around the 11,000 pound mark but obviously scholarships are available so that could be reduced depending on the student’s qualifications,” said Edgar, Associate Dean of the International Health and Life Sciences Department.

“Then living expenses in the northeast of England you’re probably looking around 7,000 pounds living expenses for the year,” she added.

Edgar explained that while most of their masteral courses take only a year to finish, they have programs that last longer: 21 months for a science course and 24 months for a business course.

Edgar noted that their law school program won the biannual Queen’s award for achievement last year.

She said there are about 10 to 15 Filipino students on their campus, “doing health or mass communication or designer programs in our university.”

She noted that most of their Filipino students are taking up masteral courses as it only takes them a year to finish it.

US style of education in UK

Meanwhile, Radhika Longbottom, head of recruitment of Richmond American International University in London, said they are the only educational institution in the UK that offers a US style of education.

Longbottom told GMA News Online that because their university offers an American curriculum, they accept Filipino K+12 graduates unlike other universities in the UK.

“We are probably the only university in UK that allows you to get an American qualification. Any student who has a GPA of 2.5 or above is more than welcome to join us,” she said.

“Our most popular courses at the minute tend to be relating to international business. Politics and international relations, psychology and believe it or not, film and theater studies, acting,” she added.

She noted that each class is limited to 17 students, adding that “the attention that students get is exceptional.”

However, as their university is located at the heart of London, their courses are more expensive than other schools in UK.

“Our fees for international students is 13,500 pounds but we offer generous scholarships starting from 1,500 pounds to 4,000 pounds,” she said.

“The cost of living in Britain as it recommended by the home office it varies. If you are in our Central London campus then it’s 9,000 pounds a year,” she added.

Longbottom explained that students can receive scholarships based either on their academic or extracurricular performance.

The advantage of enrolling at Richmond is that one gets “an American degree and a British degree. You get two pieces of paper,” she said.

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