Last week, some of the people from my master’s course and I were at a pub talking. We are mostly international students from all over the world and just two English guys.
One of them studied his undergraduate degree at Sussex so he was telling us that doing a master’s was relatively cheap for him because they gave him former Sussex student discount, but if he wanted to study at IDS it would have been almost £14,000 and that would have been way to expensive. There was an uncomfortable silence in the room because all of us, as international students, pay that much to study here. When we told him what we paid and he was obviously shocked.
It is a very large amount of money, combined with the fact that we have to travel half way across the world and live in pounds, which is one of the strongest currencies in the world.
When I realized that almost every person in my class, and many Sussex students, are paying that amount to study here, it makes me think that the whole concept of higher education is totally elitist and flawed.
Only people with £13,000 in their bank account can afford the amazing experience of studying abroad. The rest have to stay in their home countries, while a privileged few will eventually return with an international diploma, giving them higher work opportunities and probably a better salary.
This does not necessarily mean they had a better education or that they are prepared to deal with the difficulties and realities of a work environment, but it does mean that being able to afford the high costs of an international education makes you somehow better.
The underlying speech of globalization, being interconnected and learning from each other makes international students like us want to study abroad and experience this first hand, even if it does cost us a ridiculous amount of money. However, that’s not an excuse for universities to take advantage of this need and make us pay vastly different amounts than those of British/European students.
On the other side, education is more than just attending classes and reading. It’s a whole life experience about learning to get to know yourself, dealing with new and weird situations, making friends from all around the world, discovering a new city, among other amazing situations. So at the end, you are paying for much more than lectures and books and that is really what’s going to make you stand out from the rest.
At the end, studying in England, France, United Stated, Germany, China will all be the same (as long as it’s away from your home country), it will be expensive, difficult and amazing, what really makes a difference is how you shape those experiences.
So, the real question is how much would you be willing to pay for the experiences you’ve had at Sussex? Now, is the experience really worth £13,000?