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Returning to UK for university

The official Ucas deadline is January 15. Grants are available from France and loans from UK

SOME children of expat couples decide to do their university studies in the UK, to discover or rediscover their roots.

Having British or French nationality makes little difference: they can study in the UK under normal UK tuition fees, not the higher “international” ones, they are eligible for a UK student loan and, depending on means, may be eligible for a French grant based on “social” or merit criteria. Getting the standard tuition fees requires residence in an EU country for the last three years.

However these are considerably higher than fees for French universities, which are currently €171 a year for an undergraduate degree while the British equivalent can be up to £3,225 a year.

See our website, practical section, for more details on the financial aspects of going to university in France.

How and when to apply

The Ucas deadline has passed to apply to Oxford or Cambridge, or for dentistry, medicine, veterinary science or veterinary medicine - it was October 15.

Applications for other courses, except for some art and design ones which have a March 24 date, officially close on January 15. In some cases universities will consider late applications, up until June 30, however many popular courses will often not have any vacancies after the January date.

You apply at www.ucas.co.uk/students/apply/

Ucas advise that you put down any French qualifications as they appear on your certificates; you do not need to give a UK equivalent.

French grants

Means-tested “social” grants available to those studying in France are available under the same conditions to French residents going to study in another EU country.

Applications should go to your local crous (centre régional des oeuvres universitaires et scolaires) - a public body which assists students.

See www.cnous.fr and click on the yellow map to the right of the homepage to find your nearest branch (Cnous is the national umbrella body).

To apply you normally have to create a dossier social étudiant, (DSE) over the internet, after which paper forms are sent out. However the online forms do not allow you to input a foreign establishment so you should contact your crous directly. This should also be done to make sure that the course you plan to do is recognised by France.

There are seven possible levels of “social criteria” grant worked out on factors including distance from home, household income and number of siblings. The maximum is €4,140 per year.

The first level, zero, entitles the holder to an exoneration from the €198 sécurité sociale étudiante and from French university droits d'inscription (tuition fees). The latter does not apply if you are not studying in France. The former is a sum paid towards your state health cover, normally at the same time as you pay your university fees on registering at a French university.

Those going to the UK to study are still meant to pay it and should organise it before going, a Higher Education Ministry spokeswoman said. You can find details on www.ameli.fr

It is also recommended you have a student mutuelle (private health insurance). While you are in the UK you will be able to use the NHS and should take a CEAM (carte Européenne d'assurance maladie - an EHIC in English).

If you study in the UK for less than six months you are only entitled to essential healthcare that cannot wait for you to go home.

The aide au mérite is a top-up of €200/month for those who got a mention très bien in the baccalauréat and who are on a social grant or the Sesame scheme (for students whose families are below income tax thresholds and who applied to the crous but did not get a social grant).

Applications have to be made from January 15 to April 30 and once obtained must be renewed annually.

French loans

People not studying in a French establishment cannot apply for the state-guaranteed student loan, given regardless of means and without having to put forward a parent as a guarantor. They may be eligible for one of the ordinary bank loans on offer.

Help from Britain

EU students can have a student loan to pay fees (up to €3,225/ year depending on the fees). You repay after finishing and reaching a certain income. Those born in the UK can get an additional maintenance loan and may be eligible for a means-tested maintenance grant.

You can get further details from the Student Finance Service European Team on 0044 1412 433 570.

Bursaries or scholarships from some universities may also be able to assist and the British Council has details of various grants aimed at certain people. Students are not eligible for housing benefit.

Short-term study

Aide à la mobilité is a top-up for those on social grants (or Sesame scheme students) doing a period abroad during a French university course.

The Erasmus scheme can also help with time abroad.

Key dates

January 15 - Closure date for most British undergraduate course applications

January 15 - April 30 - Period for applications for French social criteria grants

March 24 - Closure date for some art and design courses

June 30 - The “final deadline.” Applications sent up until then will still be forwarded to universities, who may allocate any remaining places. After this, any late applications will go through the “clearing” process.

July - September - Clearing, a service to help those with no place find a last-minute vacancy. If you are flexible and have received good exam results there is a good chance you will still find a place. Clearing applications are not sent to universities in the normal way

October 15 - Deadline for dentistry, medicine, veterinary science and veterinary medicine and for all courses at Oxford and Cambridge

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