With so much negative press surrounding A-level grade inflation and a shortage of university places in the UK, one fact is in danger of being lost: there is a world of study options out there for you to explore. Danny Byrne takes a look at some of the best.
So your A-level grades weren't what you had hoped for and you can't find a place in Clearing. If the government's advice to do an apprenticeship or start your own business doesn't sound appealing, then perhaps it's time to start broadening your search for a university place.
The range of study destinations available to you has never been so wide and accessible, so what are the options and how realistic are they?
UK international campuses
They are a relatively new phenomenon, but in recent years several UK universities have opened international campuses around the globe. Here you can receive the same qualification as you would at home - and study in English - but also gain language skills and life experience by studying abroad.
The University of Nottingham has campuses in Malaysia and China, and has confirmed that places are still available for students who missed their A-level grades. Vincenzo Raimo, director of Nottingham's international office, was quoted in the Metro as saying: 'The courses and degrees are the same as you would get here, although an employer may be even more impressed by someone who has studied in Asia.'
The University of Bolton has a campus in the United Arab Emirates, with many places still available to UK school-leavers. Middlesex University's overseas campus in Dubai offers 17 undergraduate programs, with faculties including arts and education, business, engineering and information, sciences and health, and social sciences.
The provision of English-language degree courses across Europe is still more widespread at postgraduate level than for three-year undergraduate degrees. However, with universities across the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) realizing the strategic importance of attracting international talent, bachelor's courses taught in English are now reasonably widespread in countries including the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, as well as in Scandinavia.
Anyone who has ever visited the Netherlands will know that it is a country where English is spoken widely and to an excellent standard. Top universities including the University of Amsterdam, Maastricht University and the University of Groningen are now attracting international students by offering full degree programs taught in English. What's more, with fees of around €1,672 per year (a potentially massive saving on the £3,222 charged by most universities in the UK), study abroad in the Netherlands could be a fantastic option if you missed out on a place in Clearing.
The Czech Republic may not be an obvious choice of study abroad destination but it offers more undergraduate degrees in English than the likes of France, Germany or Italy. Coupled with the fact that it is a relatively cheap European destination compared to many of its neighbours, you could find an English-language study abroad experience here that won't break the bank. If you're concerned you may not get the same quality of degree that you would get at home, one look at the QS World University Rankings results and you'll realize the top Czech universities compete with the best.
Charles University in Prague is ranked 229 in the 2009 QS World University RankingsTM, and is particularly strong in the arts and humanities and natural sciences, where it ranks 140 and 88 respectively. Meanwhile, Czech Technical University, also in Prague, also offers several bachelor's degree programs taught in English, mostly in the fields of engineering, technology and the natural sciences. The university has a well-established international community, and its international student induction program was named the best student club in Europe in 2003.
English is widely spoken in Scandinavia, and with more institutions offering degree programs in English - coupled with policies of state-funded university education extending to international students - Denmark, Sweden and Finland also provide excellent alternatives for those who missed out on a place at university in the UK.
Australia is an increasingly popular study abroad destination, with nine universities ranked in the world's top 200. Though course fees may be a bit pricier than those at home, Australia remains a more affordable alternative to most universities in the US, and provides high-quality degree programs in all academic disciplines. Professor Sue Elliott, deputy vice-chancellor at The University of Melbourne, says a key focus of the university's internationalization strategy is attracting high-quality students from around the world.
In recent years, we have seen a growth in interest in students from the UK wanting to come to the University of Melbourne to study, she says. We expect the growth in student mobility will raise interest in overseas universities such as Melbourne. Good students are always looking for good study options and are prepared to travel to get them. And we will welcome them.