One of the most tangible benefits of joining the European Union is that it is now much easier for Czechs to study abroad. This is a very attractive prospect not just for young Czechs - keen to gain qualifications, learn languages and see the world - but also for West European universities themselves. In the competitive environment of today's academic world universities are always on the look-out for good students. That was what brought a small team from the University of Salford in the north of England to Prague this week. They held a series of public seminars to inform Czech teenagers and their parents about the opportunities on offer. David Vaughan caught up with Andrew Finch from the international office of the University of Salford, who told him why they had come.
"Basically the University of Salford is keen to enhance its profile across Central and Eastern Europe now, especially now that the Czech Republic is now a member of the European Union, and this we feel opens up a lot of opportunities for Czech students, who might be considering studying in the UK. Previously they were treated as international students, now they will be treated as European students. Financially it's a more attractive option now for Czech students to study in the UK."
What does it actually mean for Czech students - the fact that the Czech Republic is now in the European Union - if they want to study in Britain?
"If a Czech student wants to study at undergraduate level, a BA or BSc honours degree, for example, a three or four year course, they can now apply for help with their tuition fees. It depends on the family income. If it's below a certain figure, they won't be required to pay any contribution at all. In addition to that, now that Czech students are European citizens, they do have the same rights as UK students, in the sense that they can actually work part-time when they are in the UK to supplement their income."
Why are you so interested in recruiting students from the Czech Republic?
"We would like to internationalize the curriculum. This is to do with internationalizing the learning experience, not just for UK students but also for international students studying at the University of Salford. And we do realize the benefits that an international student can actually bring to the programme of study."
And what are these benefits?
"They've had different learning methods, they've got different ideas that they can bring into the learning experience of the student population as a whole."
What fields are most interesting for you? What subjects are most interesting from your point of view?
"At the moment in the UK we have various subject shortage areas, for example in the IT subject area, mathematics, science-related subjects etc. We realize that a lot of students in the Czech Republic, in the Central and Eastern European countries are highly qualified in those subject areas, and again we feel we should be offering those students the opportunity to choose to come and study that subject in the UK."
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