Being an Erasmus student has got so many advantages to it. Beyond the stereotype of meeting people from all over the world, learning new skills, travelling throughout Europe… I also get a first-hand experience of they way the education system is run over here.
And yes, there are some differences – key differences to the education system. More specifically, the higher and further education here. On year in Grenoble studying for a Diplome Universitaire de Technologie at Pierre Mendes University France has given me an insight into what happens in a France institution.
It could be argued that, because I am Erasmus (and so don’t pay any tuition fees) I can’t really comment on fees. Indeed I’ve heard this argument from a few people back home – that I am not really living in the real world. To be quite honest I think two years of university in England and then some time here allows me to make a pretty good judgement on what’s going on.
The current maximum tuition fee that can be charged in the UK for a full-time UK/EU student is £9,000 per year. For a business-related course, that works out at about 13 hours per week in contact time. Here in France, the fee limit is around the EUR200 per year mark for a full-time bachelor degree. For this you get a lot more hours for your money and much more support, according to people I have spoken to about their experiences in French life.
I personally study for the DUT qualification, the French equivalent to the HND we have in the UK. The HND is frequently used as a stepping stone to a full bachelor’s degree. The same can be said for the DUT. Whilst UK students struggle with thousands of pounds of debt, French students can get on the DUT course, complete with their student social security for EUR500 per year.
It’s not like French universities skimp on hours or anything – I currently study around 15 hours per week in the classroom. When you consider that you’re not paying vast amounts of money for this you being to realise that this isn’t such a bad deal.
You could even point to things outside the classroom for comparison. Students seem get a fantastic extra-curricular experience in terms of sports and societies – the university heavily subsidises activities and sports. Even the student cafeterias are of incredible value – meals are EUR 3,15 here in Grenoble for a three-course meal in the student cafeteria. Compare that to Lincoln, where the so-called student cafes and bars claim good value, yet charge twice that for one course.
And somehow, Pierre Mendes manages this for 20,000 students. Day in, day out. The result? Happy students with a great education that employers love – in many cases the DUT is a more attractive option than a full degree.
Surely it’s time to change our priorities and consider what we can achieve.
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