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  • Writer's pictureIan Gallagher

Choosing a University Foundation Pathway Programme - 5 points to consider.

The university pathway programme selection process can be a little tricky for parents and students that are unsure of their options. A large percentage will just choose a university pathway program on offer at the university they ultimately want to end up studying at. This makes perfect sense but lets look at some points worth considering before making that final decision...

1. The Cost of the Course

The price tag for foundation courses in some locations is not for the faint hearted. With fees often ranging from £15,000 to £24000, the cost can be a little intimidating for all but the wealthy few. The additional cost of accommodation and living expenses are likely to be upward of €20,000 for the year so it may be worth while considering other options.

It is possible to find affordable university pathway courses closer to home? Thankfully, the answer is yes!

Fortunately, such programs exist and they offer a much more affordable route. Examples of such courses include bachelors preparation courses in countries such as Ireland, Singapore, Nigeria, South Africa, China and so on. Providers of these programs include NCC Education, Kaplan and NCUK to name but a few. Educational centres are dotted across various continents such as Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. If you are seeking affordability, then it is worth while researching these providers a little more. Courses can range anything from €2,000 to €15,000. The fees often depend on the country, the quality of the programmes and the teachers employed (Native English speaking/non native English speaking).

2. The Cost of Living

Arguably an extension of point 1 but fully deserving it's own mention, the cost of living needs to be considered carefully. How much will it cost you to live for a full academic year in the country of choice? An excellent article written in 2016 by the Times Higher Education discusses the rising cost of living that students need to contend with. With prices continually increasing for the students of today's world, the burden of dept is ever present. A great way to evaluate the cost of living is through the Big Mac index. It highlights the differences between the cost of a big mac in different regions around the world while giving a glimpse of a country's underlying cost of living. In 2017, student accommodation is one of the biggest concerns especially in the bigger cities such of London. With the price of accommodation in newly purpose built student campus in Dublin starting at €250 a week, it is natural to be concerned about living expenses.

3. The Location

Are you enrolling in a foundation pathway programme to increase your level of English to sufficiently prepare you for the academic challenges of life at Uni? If the answer is yes, then another question is worth asking.

If you want to be successful at University, do you really think it's a good idea to study in a country that doesn't speak English as a first language?

The chances are you have a great teacher, that you listen to music and watch English movies and practice English all the time but some of the greatest challenges to studying abroad in the UK, Canada or Australia are attaining the levels of fluency required to understand a different accent, communicate effectively, write academically and possess the study and research skills necessary to succeed. When students opt to study in their home country it sometimes limits the opportunity to reach the required level to be competitive when studying in an English speaking country. Immersing yourself in a language offers the greatest chance of success.

4. The Culture

Cultural differences can be one of the most difficult aspects of studying overseas. For some, a new culture can sometimes be an obstacle to performing well at University especially if it impacts the ability to make new friends. An article written by the Higher Educational Studies discusses this with respect to Chinese students studying in English speaking Universities.

It is often the case that differences in culture become more apparent after 3 months of living in a country. The initial honeymoon period of overseas study is generally a feel good phase when everything is new and exciting. The reality of a new cultural surrounding tends to become apparent when the newness begins to fade and everyday routines begin to kick in. The rice in the morning that was once possible is no longer the norm. That favourite cooking ingredient is no longer available. The general conversations seem to have shifted to general chit chat about the weather, when the weather doesn't really change apart from when it stops raining. This may seem trivial to the seasoned traveler but can lead to home sickness for those who have just left their home country for the first time.

The good news is foundation pathway programmes in English speaking countries help students adjust to their new surroundings with less pressure from stressful exams. Foundation programs like that from NCC Education go even further by including a cultural studies module to help students understand their new surroundings.

5. The Ability to Work Part Time

With the cost of tuition fees, accommodation and general day to day expenses, more and more students are finding it difficult to survive without working part time. With the UK restricting the work rights for non-EU students in further Education, the burden of dept increases for Non - EU students that need to find employment to fund their studies. With Brexit negotiations in full swing, this could possibly impact students from the EU in the near future. Ireland is an alternative to the UK and offers students the opportunity to work up to 20 hours per week to fund their studies helping reduce the stress of loans repayments and the cost of accommodation. Canada also offers the ability to work as an international student but not everyone qualifies. Details can be found here. With University costs increasing on a yearly basis, countries that allow students to work part time will begin to see international student numbers rise over the coming years.

Here in Limerick City at Birchwater Education we are delighted to offer students an affordable route through our International Foundation Diploma university pathway course accredited by NCC Education. This pathway course offers students the ability to study in over 60 Universities across the UK, Ireland, Canada, the US and Australia. More information can be found here.

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