(Nikkei: March 16, 2015 – p. 25)
By Ken Moriyasu in Dalian, China
The cost of studying at foreign universities is spiraling. Tuition alone in the U.S. and the UK, the most popular destinations, will cost 3-6 million yen a year. This is too much of a financial burden for the average salaried worker’s family. However, if you look elsewhere in the world, there are actually many countries providing education at a reasonable cost. There are even countries that would embrace foreign students enthusiastically for the sake of enhancing diversity. We looked at some alternative options for studying abroad.
At a study abroad fair in Hong Kong in mid-February, students were astonished when the recruitment officer of Rhine-Waal University told them tuition is basically free for both local and foreign students at public universities in Germany.
Classes at this university in Kleve, near the Dutch border, are conducted one hundred percent in English, enabling students to earn a degree in the English language in Germany.
Why is tax money paid by German citizens being used to give free education even to foreigners? Tuition waver used to be granted only to students from poor countries as a form of aid, but the German government has changed its thinking. It has come to think that people’s brains are the only asset in resource-poor Germany, and those brains will come up with new ideas the more they interact with people of diverse views. Offering free education to foreigners is actually a strategic investment by Germany for the maintenance of its competitiveness.
The British magazine Economist carried a cover story in January entitled “America’s New Aristocracy.” Compared with 1980, tuition in U.S. universities has grown 17 times faster than average income in the country. The magazine voiced the criticism that while the U.S. advocates freedom and equality, only children of the rich can afford to go to college.
Behind the rising tuition is the fact that universities are competing with each other to invest in facilities and build beautiful campuses to attract more students.
Full tuition fees paid by foreign students are paying for these expensive investments. Rich students from China and Saudi Arabia do not receive scholarships or get tuition discounts like American students. Being made to shoulder the facility investment cost with their tuition does not stop them from studying in America.
With studying in the U.S., the UK, and Australia becoming more prohibitive due to rising tuition, many other countries are beginning to attract foreign students who have given up on going to these countries. Universities conducting classes in English have begun to appear in Spain, France, Hungary, and other places. New Zealand, where English is the predominant language, is less expensive than the U.S., the UK, and Australia and is also becoming popular.
An official of the Spanish embassy emphasized at the study abroad fair in Hong Kong that Spain absolutely offers the best deal in cost performance. Annual tuition in a public university is only 700-3,700 euros (100,000-500,000 yen), while the living cost is much cheaper than in the U.S. and the UK.
Spain boasts of the added advantage of learning Spanish, the second most spoken language in the world (after Chinese), while getting an English college education. The embassy official explained that Spanish is the official language in 21 countries, including the Latin American countries, which is a future growth center, so learning Spanish will be good for business.
The French contradict this claim and argue that Africa will be the future growth center and French is the official language in over 21 African countries that are its former colonies.
Tuition in French public universities, 189 euros a year, is even cheaper than in Spain. There are also universities offering an education entirely in English.
The education officer of the Hungarian consulate general in Hong Kong pointed out at the study abroad fair that although Hungary is not a popular destination for Asian students, it boasts an intellectual environment that breeds creative ideas.
New Zealand plays up the fact that the country is safe. Since many students are concerned about living overseas in light of hostage taking by extremist groups and other incidents, its official called the attention of fair participants to the fact that New Zealand has never fought in a war since its founding.
The Chinese mainland has also emerged as an unexpected study abroad destination. The United International College (UIC) in Zhuhai City, Guangdong Province, conducts all its classes in English. It advertises the advantage of studying with elite Chinese students from all over the country, which will be good for forming personal connections if one intends to do business with China in the future.
Developing one’s linguistic skills and overseas experience will definitely be advantageous for business people. Therefore, it is too early to give up just because of the cost of tuition. (Slightly abridged)