University News

Academic freedom a plus for Brits

Staff Writer
Monday, January 31, 2011

Undergraduate applications to Brown from citizens of the United Kingdom have risen nearly 40 percent in the past two years, almost twice the rate of increase in total applications to the University.

This year, Brown received 160 applications from U.K. citizens, 14 more applications than in 2010, and 44 more than in 2009, wrote Panetha Theodosia Nychis Ott, director of international admission, in an e-mail to The Herald. The total number of undergraduate applications this year came out to about 31,000, as compared to 30,136 the year before, and 25,000 in 2009.

The increase in U.K. applicants may be a result of the University’s increased international presence and international alumni networking, according to Ott.

The rising costs of higher education in the U.K. could also have contributed to the increase in applicants, she wrote.

Brown is not the only institution that has experienced an increase in U.K. applicants in the past several years. According to a press release from the Institute of International Education, the United Kingdom was the thirteenth most common place of origin for students studying in the United States in 2010, a 2 percent increase since 2009. The report also stated a 3 percent total increase in the number of international students at colleges and universities in the U.S. during the previous academic year.

Cheno Pinter ’14, a citizen of both the U.S. and the U.K., said she believes the recent increase in tuition has encouraged more U.K. students to consider attending university in the U.S.

“Financial aid basically doesn’t exist in England like it does in America, and people are starting to realize that,” Pinter said, adding that students who cannot afford to attend university in the U.K. are often offered financial aid at big American universities.

A decision last month in the British Parliament amid student protests increased the cap on university fees from $4,800 to $14,500 a year. The new fees, especially coupled with the expensive living costs associated with some U.K. cities, have diminished the cost differential between the countries’ university systems, Ott wrote, which could further increase applications in the future.

Rhianna Shaw ’11, another U.K. student, said even though some American universities like Brown do not offer need-blind financial aid to international students, U.K. students may still be able to get more support in the U.S. While it is possible to take out student loans or receive special academic grants, she said the idea of direct financial assistance does not exist in the same way.

Pinter said another consideration for U.K. students is what type of college experience they want to have.

“My friends that are in school in the States are much happier than my friends who are in school in England,” Pinter said, adding that U.K. colleges have fewer hours of class, and the first year is taken completely pass/fail. “It’s just so much more of any experience,” she said.     

Pinter also said university students in the U.K. have to choose their field of study in the middle of their senior year of high school.

“I wasn’t ready to do that,” she said.

Shaw said her decision to apply to Brown was based on the open curriculum and the appeal of a liberal arts education.

“I just loved the fact that I could take all these different classes,” she said. “I’ve done theater to history to environmental science, economics, dance, photography.”

She said she thinks U.K. applications will continue to increase.

“Comparatively, American university isn’t that much more expensive,” she said, adding that though Oxford is “really the creme de la creme of the U.K.,” the reputation of many American universities probably has had just as much of an effect on the increase in applications.