Across continental Europe an increasing number of master’s programs are being taught in English, according to a new study by the Institute of International Education. In fact, as of June there has been a 38 percent increase in available master's courses in English from just 18 months earlier, when 4,644 courses were taught in English, to 6,407 master’s programs available in the language.
To further emphasize the rapid growth of programs in English, this latest total is 10 times higher than the overall number of programs offered in 2002, the report says. The report based its findings on course listings in the Study Portals website, where information from 1200 public and private universities in continental Europe showed that close to a third of the 21,000 advertised courses are in English.
With an increased selection of master’s programs in English available across mainland Europe, it is not surprising that searches for courses in Britain fell from 31 percent in 2011 to 24 percent in 2013. In comparison over the same time period, Germany’s share of page views rose from 14 to 18 percent. Potential students showed increased interest in Sweden and France as well.
Competition for international master’s students is growing stronger and Britain sees the results. Although potential master’s students continue to have interest in the UK and that segment is still strong and growing, the growth is faster in other countries, according to Elias Faethe, head of Study Portal’s Intelligence Unit, and the report’s co-author. “If you look at the main competitor countries to the UK in Europe, they are all pushing forward their efforts to attract high-quality international students, and English-taught courses are a way to do this,” Faethe said.
The report says that some countries in Scandinavia have switched most of their postgraduate teaching to English, with Sweden showing 708 master’s courses taught in English this year, a 73 percent increase over 2011 totals. The Netherlands has the highest number of English taught master’s programs in continental Europe – 946 available compared to the 386 taught just six years ago.
France is an interesting example in this study. French law bans teaching in anything but French – a law that actually is loosely enforced. In 2007 the number of master’s programs available in English were just 11 and this year the number has soared to 494. Attracting intelligent and highly skilled students by offering English taught courses is one of several moves European countries have implemented over the last several years. Elias Faethe, the Study Portal leader added, “There is a clear direction towards more internationalization, particularly in Germany, which is doing so for demographic reasons.”
Asian countries too are offering courses in English, with China and Hong Kong likely additional competitors to Britain. Daniel Stevens, international students officer at the National Union of Students offered, “The traditional destinations to study in English,” such as The U.S, Australia and Britain, “are no longer a given,” he said. “Other countries are realizing the benefits of attracting international students and, crucially, the governments are behind them, offering visas that include the chance of working afterwards.”
Britain is fighting back, according to a British Council spokesman who argued that the growth of master’s courses in English in Europe reflected “the desire to operate internationally in the world’s working language.” He said, “however, the language a course is taught in is just one part of the attraction: students want to learn in English, but then also speak English outside the lecture hall.” He added, “The UK attracts more new higher education students than any other country in the world, and research shows that the overall teaching experience the UK provides makes the difference.” One thing is certain, options for studying in English taught master’s programs around the world will only continue to increase.
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