Postgrads pack their bags: Prospects Postgrad looks at the planning required to study abroad.

The overall number of UK students studying abroad is relatively small, but the number of opportunities for overseas study is increasing. There are now thousands of universities around the world offering an array of short courses, taught Masters and research degrees.

Common reasons for studying abroad include the desire to experience working at an international level, because the country or university has special relevance to your subject, to experience a different culture and perhaps learn a language, and to stand out in a highly competitive job market. Whatever your reason, as with studying in the UK, you need to plan your study thoroughly.

Firstly, it is important to think about why you are going. Taking up a course in another country will not be easy and it is important that you choose your options carefully. Once you have decided what you want to study, you will need to think about which country you are going to study in.

It is vital that you research your choices carefully by talking to tutors, contacting the institutions you are interested in directly and asking for detailed information. Course titles and contents will vary so its vital that you find out exactly what you will be studying before you leave. It is also advisable to check the entry requirements and length of the course you intend to take again, these will vary according to institution.

You will also need to think about how and when you need to make your application, especially if you are applying for funding. Most institutions should have this information available on their web site, but an early start and thorough preparation will maximise your chances of gaining both a place offer and funding. Even where there is an academic year system, they may begin and end at different times from those in the UK. For example, Japans academic year begins in April and in New Zealand its March. Early closing dates for applications include the USA which may be as early as November of the year preceding study.

It is important that you consider how you will cope in another country. English is widely spoken and may even be the language your course is taught in but that does not mean to say you will not need another language to get by, and learning at least the foundations before you leave is advisable.

Perhaps one of the most important considerations when it comes to studying abroad is how much it is going to cost. You may find a course that is comparable to the UK, matches your requirements and is cheaper, making your case to study abroad stronger. But in some cases, the fees will be much higher. For example applying for a course in the US will cost you 50 alone, and that is even before you have paid for your entry tests. Fees and flights make US study much more expensive for UK postgraduates than studying at home. In fact, students who study anywhere outside the EU will be charged higher fees as they are classed as international students.

Funding your overseas study can be achieved in a number of ways. As in the UK there are a number of awards and scholarships awarded by institutions, and there may even be teaching or research assistantships available, particularly in the US. But it is a good idea not to count on getting funding. Competition is fierce and the search for funding can be long. You may even have to fund some, or your entire course by working.

Studying abroad can offer many personal and professional advantages; you will be able to work with specialists in your field as well as experience living in a new country. If this is your chosen route, though, it is essential that you are prepared and that you plan your path carefully as it may lead you a long way from home.
Joanne OConnor

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