Recently there have been numerous protests lining the streets in London – hundreds of kids getting together to cry out against the increase in University fees. They gathered in such masses that tubes were closed, yielding signs saying things like, “Dumbledore wouldn’t let this happen.” Until this point in time, yearly fees were only £3,000 (or $4,800). After a recent change in legislation, they were going to be increased to £9,000 a year (roughly $14,400).
I was sitting at my desk at ETX Capital when coverage of the protests came on and I said under my break, “Man, I wish we could protest about our fees,” and the girl who sits next to me asked what it is like for us. They were surprised to find that college in the US can run anywhere from $20,000 to $80,000 a year. When we discussed the topic in my British Life and Cultures class, the professor said that the whole idea of who pays for school differs in the UK. At home, it is widely accepted that the parent pays for their child’s schooling if they are able, often accompanied by various sorts of financial aid. In the UK, the burden of tuition falls solely to the student and financial aid is not nearly as common. Therefore, the 300% increase in tuition is quite a big ordeal to them.
I have noticed a few other differences between college in the UK and US. For instance, it only takes three years to complete a bachelor’s degree here. A friend of mine said that most students have to know what they want to study in University when they are only 16 years old so that they can start preparing, compared to US students who change their major an average of six times (myself included)! Even more surprising is the role of a major; another friend of mine is studying Physics and when I asked him what he wanted to do upon graduation, he said banking. Hmm. I didn’t see any correlation at first, but now it makes sense: physics is qualitative and works heavily with numbers.
It is learning things like the differences in education that make me glad I was able to come here. I would never have even considered attending a foreign school for all four years because I did not know enough about them. Now it is something that runs through my mind. On my cruise through Italy and Spain, I met four people studying for their MBA in Nice, France and it made me wonder if perhaps something like that is in the cards for me in the future…
Keri Hodnik is studying abroad in London, England, with the Foundation for International Education (FIE).