Postgraduate Study: Further Afield

By Gemma Creagh - Last update


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Are you thinking of taking your Postgraduate Course in another country? Here at Postgrad.ie, we’ve compiled our top tips when it comes to undertaking postgraduate study further afield.

Why Study Abroad?

Travelling to another country to pursue a postgraduate course is an increasingly viable and attractive option for Irish students. One or more of the following factors may apply:

  • The huge range of courses on offer. Literally thousands of options in every conceivable topic are available across Europe and further afield.
  • Postgraduate courses provided through English are increasingly popular in mainland Europe – over 900 Masters Programmes in the Netherlands alone.
  • Scholarships and funding are often available to visiting Irish students – internationalization of the student body is a key goal of universities and colleges worldwide.
  • Irish students can avail of free fees in some EU countries such as Denmark and Sweden.
  • The unforgettable cultural and social experience of learning and living abroad.
  • The opportunity to develop language skills through the immersive experience of living abroad.
  • Widen your career prospects with the option to seek employment in your host country.
  • International experience and foreign language ability are highly valued in the employment market.

Embarking on postgraduate study abroad is a major undertaking, despite all the great benefits and facilitating factors, and therefore not a decision to be made lightly.

 

Research, Research, Research

There are many different opportunities available worldwide for students who decide to undertake postgraduate study. The possibilities range from Agriculture in Adelaide to Anthropology in Amsterdam. Work out what your options and ambitions are, and then find out as much as possible to ensure that you make an informed choice.

Here are some key considerations:

  • In which specific subject areas am I most interested? The topic ought to be your passion given the commitment required to study abroad.
  • Which countries are the most viable/attractive options – in terms of travel, language ability, lifestyle, climate, and so on?
  • How will I finance this? Rigorously research all funding options, beginning with your current institution in Ireland (if applicable), your intended postgraduate course provider abroad, and government sources.
  • Timing: find out application deadlines of the postgraduate courses that interest you, and begin your research at an appropriately early stage. It is advisable to start gathering information at least eighteen months in advance of the programme start date.

These are not easy questions to answer. Finding the right course, at the right institution, and in the right country takes a large investment in time and resources.

Consult as many people as possible, and read everything you can get your hands on. Your lecturers are the first people that you should speak to as they may have studied or taught abroad and are often fully clued in with the latest academic research around the world. The international office, careers service and foreign students in your own university are another good source of information. Contact the embassies of the countries in which you are interested and ask them for any information that they consider relevant. Looking at research journals relating to your area of interest can also give you a clue as to the location of the best opportunities for postgraduate study and research.

The Internet is a most valuable resource. Many countries have dedicated websites for international students (see some examples below), as do most individual universities and institutions. There are also many independent websites that offer valuable advice and tips.

 

Choosing a Country

Universities around the world increasingly seek international postgraduate students. Top candidates increase prestige and international students pay higher fees in some countries. Institutions from different countries compete to attract top-quality students and researchers from abroad. One in three PhDs issued in France for example, is to an international student.

Many governments have established official agencies to provide information to foreign students, and have also put in place funding and scholarship schemes to attract postgraduates from abroad.

There are several considerations when making a decision other than the course and institution. For instance: language and cultural factors; acceptability of academic qualifications; standard of research and study facilities; Visa and work permit requirements; career prospects; and costs and standard of living in the country. It is always advisable to visit the country and the university or institution in question before committing – although this may not be possible in every case and the student may have to rely upon email or phone communication with the course provider.

The most popular region for international postgraduate study for Irish students is Western Europe. Irish universities have built strong links with their European counterparts under EU educational development schemes such as Erasmus. The ECTS programme means that Irish qualifications are accepted at EU universities and vice versa. Many European countries, including Germany and France, highly subsidise their education systems, meaning that Irish student can often pay negligible fees at postgraduate level.

After our EU partners, the English-speaking countries of North America and Australasia are the next most popular. In particular, many Irish students choose to study in the US, taking advantage of strong historical, cultural and business links between the two countries. Postgraduate study in the US can be a first step toward a working career there, and there are a number of attractive scholarship and funding opportunities available. Australia is also an attractive destination for Irish postgraduate students, with the Australian government making a concerted effort to attract talented postgraduate students from abroad. Postgraduate study in Australia for example, may also pave the way to obtaining a work or graduate visa upon completion of the course so the student can remain in the country and seek employment.

Applications and Costs

Choosing the right postgraduate programme is only the beginning. The admissions processes for postgraduate programmes across the world tend to be complex and thorough. Requirements vary from country to country, discipline to discipline and institution to institution. You will have to convince the admissions officers that you have the ability, and just as importantly, the motivation to succeed at their institution.

Applicants need to be keenly aware of the different funding and course deadlines in different universities and countries. Some deadlines will fall very early in your final undergraduate year. The Fulbright Awards for example, the most accessible scholarship for students travelling to the US has a closing date of November for Irish candidates. Closing dates for US courses are generally in December, compared with spring and summer deadlines for most European courses.

Many higher-level institutions require personal statements and research proposals along with academic and professional references, evidence of language capability and proof of your financial means as well as the application form and your academic results. All this can take some time to prepare, and it is highly advisable for international students to submit applications within the deadline.

There are significant differences in the cost of postgraduate education in each country. Postgraduate fees at British universities are generally higher than those charged at mainland European universities, but postgraduate course lengths of varying durations can balance this out. Fees at non-EU universities tend to be even higher, with some courses at certain prestigious North American universities costing as much as €24,000. Canada boasts some of the lowest course fees of popular non-EU destinations for Irish students. It is up to the individual to decide whether an investment in education now will pay off later, and international universities are no different to their Irish counterparts in formulating regular surveys of graduate destinations.

There are substantial funding opportunities available for postgraduate students at international universities. These differ from country to country, and competition for scholarships can often be fierce. National governments, EU initiatives, university-specific and private scholarships are all sources of financial support. As much research should go into securing funding as in choosing a programme of study. Applying early and often is a good idea. Postgraduate students usually fund themselves through teaching or research, off-campus work, loans or generous parents. However you plan to finance your study, it pays to work out in advance approximately what you will need, and how you are going to obtain it.

Even the process of applying for postgraduate study abroad can be expensive. For example, application fees to US universities can be up to €80 each, and admissions tests can cost considerably more. Students considering European institutions as an option may find it worthwhile to visit and talk to lecturers and other staff before they make their decision. While even the most confident students apply to more than one programme, it makes sense to prioritise and conduct sufficient research in advance so that you only seriously consider options that you are sure are right for you.

There is a whole world of postgraduate study and research out there for you. The following links are some of the most fruitful sources of information in researching the international option.

 

France

The Campus France website has a wealth of material for the international student considering postgraduate study in France, including a programme database, funding information and general tips on living and studying in France: www.campusfrance.org/en/

Fondation Kastler is a free administrative and information service for foreign scientists and researchers interested carrying out research in France: http://www.fnak.fr

The official French student organisation is CNOUS. Their website has a dedicated section (in French) for international students: www.cnous.fr

Germany

www.higher-education-compass.de is an online database containing information about all of the higher-level institutions, degree programmes and doctorate options available in Germany.

The German Embassy in Dublin provides information about studying in Germany, and also about useful scholarship opportunities: www.dublin.diplo.de

Campus-Germany’s website provides information about studying and living in Germany: www.study-in.de/en/

 

Benelux

For everything you need to know about studying a postgraduate programme in the Netherlands, visit the excellent NUFFIC website at www.nuffic.nl/en

www.studyinbelgium.be is the official website promoting higher education in the Wallonia (French-speaking) region of Belgium and the capital Brussels. Explore English-language postgraduate courses, application information, scholarship opportunities and more.

www.studyinflanders.be provides similar information for the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium.

 

Scandinavia

www.studyindenmark.dk is a government website with information for international students about studying, living and working in Denmark.

www.studyinsweden.se is a comprehensive resource for information about higher education in Sweden, geared towards prospective students from outside Sweden. The site incorporates a frequently updated database of English-language programs, an overview of the Swedish higher education system, practical information about visas and accommodation, scholarships, application procedures and pointers for learning Swedish as a foreign language.

www.studyinnorway.no is designed to give prospective students, their parents and student coordinators at foreign institutions a basic introduction to various aspects of the Norwegian higher education system, study opportunities (including over 200 postgraduate programmes taught through English) and institutions.

 

US

EducationUSA is a global network of advice and information centres supported by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the US Department of State. The website has useful information on visa and funding opportunities.

The Fulbright Commission builds links between Ireland and the US through educational exchange programmes and scholarships: www.fulbright.ie

www.studyusa.com is a commercial site holding a database of available graduate programmes.

Another online guide for international students considering further study in the US is available at www.edupass.org

 

Canada

www.studycanada.ca provides plenty of information for international students intending to study in Canada including the application process, links to different universities, information about the education system in Canada and Canadian life

www.cic.gc.ca offers information about living in Canada as well as educational information and resources

 

Australasia

The Australian government have set up an excellent website to attract international students, which has a wealth of information on courses, costs and funding options. This is the number one resource for anyone considering postgraduate study in Australia: www.studyinaustralia.gov.au

The Endeavour Programme is a scholarship awarded to international students on a competitive basis.

www.newzealandeducated.com is a site dedicated to international students seeking information about living and learning in New Zealand


Gemma Creagh

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