Sir Peter Lampl writes in The Times about study opportunities abroad, including the Sutton Trust US programme.
Opportunities to study abroad should be grasped as much by state school students from low and middle income families as by those whose parents can afford independent school fees.
Overseas study has real benefits. Experiencing a different culture and approaches to higher education broadens the mind and improves employability. So, just as hundreds of thousands of young people from abroad study at our universities, we should welcome the growing traffic the other way.
While European study is often fee-free, and therefore more open to those from less advantaged backgrounds, only a very limited number of universities teach in English. US undergraduate study has until recently been seen as the preserve of those who have had an independent education.
Yet the US has 17 of the top 20 universities in the world and a majority of the top 100. We have identified 250 US universities and colleges which, because they have very large endowments, offer full funding or substantial bursaries for able students from overseas from low and middle income homes, totalling £400 million per year.
The experience of working in the United States and Germany transformed my horizons, and I would have loved to have had the chance to do some of my studies abroad too.
Visiting US universities, I’ve been particularly impressed by how they combine breadth and depth in a way that British universities do not. Their degrees are for four years and the first two are spent taking a whole range of subjects before specialising in one or two for the final two years. As a distinguished former Harvard president put it to me, the objective of a Harvard education is that you come out knowing a little bit about everything and a lot about one or two things. I believe that prepares young people much better for today’s world of work than studying one or two subjects for three years.
The chance to broaden opportunities for young British people prompted us to extend the Sutton Trust summer schools model to the US last year. Of the 64 state school and college students who spent a week at Yale living on campus and visiting other East Coast universities, 21 have started at the most prestigious US institutions, such as Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Columbia and Dartmouth, with essentially everything paid for, so, on average, each gets approximately $250,000 (£156,000) worth of funding from the university.
This year we had 1,200 applicants for 150 places at Yale and the MIT. Successful applicants were all academically strong and their average family income was £25,000.
Most were the first generation in their family to go to university, and a number were eligible for free school meals. As in the first year of the programme, successful students took part in three introductory events before they went to the US. They are having follow-up sessions, including help in making applications and preparing for the [American] ACT standardised test.
The whole experience is a taster of the enrichment that comes from spending four years studying in the States. More than 100 students applied and those who didn’t are still keen to do some of their postgraduate or undergraduate studies in the US.
Of course, there are good financial reasons for studying in the US. Avoiding debts of £50,000 upon graduation — to cover £9,000 per year tuition fees and additional living costs — is certainly a strong incentive. However, studying abroad is an enriching experience that gives the student the option of different approaches to learning, and living in a new culture. And it must increasingly be a choice that is open to able young people from all backgrounds.
Read the full article here (£).