By David Allen, MA, IECA (Scotland, UK)

There has long been a tradition of students from North America travelling overseas to study in the United Kingdom; indeed, even as far back as my time at St Andrews, we had some US nationals in my residence hall (dorm). More surprising, perhaps, was that they weren’t just there to play golf. Nowadays, St Andrews boasts a huge proportion of students from the US and Canada in its ranks (almost 15% of the total student population). Partly fuelled by the attendance a number of years ago by the now Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, St Andrews has a large presence in the minds of US regional recruiters, is on the Common Application, and boasts a great dual-degree programme with the college of William and Mary.

St Andrews is just one example of the United Kingdom being very attractive to students in the United States and Canada, and students are, in fact, eligible in some cases to take their student loans with them. Increasing numbers of UK institutions are joining the Common Application, and we are seeing an increasing attendance from the marketing teams at both NACAC and OACAC. A recent Open Doors (IIE, 2013) report noted that “U.S. students studying abroad increased by three percent to an all-time high of more than 283,000” and “The United Kingdom remains the leading destination for American students, followed by Italy, Spain, France and China,” so we can see clearly that there is a growing trend of students applying to and attending institutions for more than just a semester study-abroad option.

One of the more interesting points that came out of the Open Doors report was the increasing number of students studying in nonnative English-speaking countries. It is in this area that we have seen most growth in recent years. More and more European countries are offering quality programmes in English in a whole range of subjects. It is now possible to study everything—from liberal arts to medicine—in Europe in English.

Of course the first places that most students look are the English-speaking countries of the United Kingdom and Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is a wonderful option for students. There are 7 traditional universities with a full range of courses and 13 more-technically orientated, degree-granting institutes of technology. The best place to start exploration is at

Most recently, I have seen a major growth in the number of courses available in the Netherlands. I have toured schools there twice and have been very impressed with the courses and facilities on offer. The Dutch are modelling their university college structure much like a US liberal arts college, and their universities of applied sciences offer some great career-focused programmes. Indeed, the last time I saw the data there were increasing numbers of UK students looking to the Netherlands for their studies. I think the tuition costs being about a third of those in England might have had something to do with that. For those of you who aren’t aware, recently tuition in the United Kingdom for home students nearly tripled to approximately $14,000—dreadful eh?

Clearly, the Netherlands is one place for North American students to consider over and above the United Kingdom or Ireland. In addition there are lots of smaller niche programmes available at places like Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany; Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic; and the Sorbonne and Sciences Po in Paris, France, just to mention a few. A great website to start to look is

There are other obvious considerations when students are thinking about studying in Europe. First, there is the language issue. Although courses may be taught in English, students need to consider whether their social language is also English or, if they are so inclined, whether they need to learn a language in order to socialise. This may not be an issue in the Netherlands where English is widely spoken, but may be an issue when studying in the Czech Republic.

Whatever students are looking for, Europe is definitely worth considering. I have a personal bias toward studying in Scotland, but students these days have an incredible range of choices for their higher education. As many and varied as those choices are, it just makes the need for experienced, informed, professional counselling even more important.

David Allen can be reached at [email protected].