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Pursuing International Higher Education

With the rise in UK tuition fees in recent years, there has been more interest from UK applicants in opportunities to study at universities abroad.

As a teacher, how well do you know the US university system? What about Australian higher education? Suppose your student wants to study in Europe, what can you tell them about it?

In this chapter of our Dear Headteacher series, we share with you the following summary of advice to give to those interested in taking their studies internationally.

“So, you want to study abroad?”

Your students considering this option should ask the same questions that they should ask of any UK university:

  • Am I likely to be interested in the course content and the course structure, including methods of assessment, possible integrated work placements, areas of possible specialisation?
  • What is the contact time? How frequent are tutorials/classes/seminars?
  • Where I can talk about the course with an academic member of staff? How many students are there in such groups?
  • What is the provision for accommodation and extra-curricular activities?

In addition, it is important to consider other issues, such as:

  • What is the match between the level I will have reached in A level/IB subjects and the entry level required/desirable at the university abroad? Is there a good match, or will I be over/under-stretched?
  • How much will I need to pay in tuition and living costs? Will I need to pay tuition fees at the start of each year? Will this represent value for money, when compared with an equivalent course at a UK university?
  • What recognition will be given to this degree in the UK? This is particularly important, if the degree is part of a professional qualification.
  • What evidence is there of career paths of the UK students from this degree programme?
  • What support network would be in place, if I had a medical or other emergency?
  • Is this university one which particularly attracts local students and therefore largely clears at weekends?
  • Are there cultural or climatic issues which I need to consider?

US Universities

There are over 4000 universities in the USA. Most international students opt for four-year ‘Liberal Arts’ programmes: a range of subjects is studied in the early years, with specialisation particularly in the last 2 years.

Tuition fees vary greatly: $10k-$55k pa. US unis can be more expensive than UK unis, and US private unis are more expensive than most US public unis.

There is no equivalent of UCAS. Applications are significantly different from UK applications (eg extra-curricular activities in a personal statement are more likely to be relevant) and SAT standardised tests will probably need to be sat.

Do not choose a short list from unreliable ranking lists or brand-name prejudice: remember that the term “Ivy League” was coined by a sports commentator, the eight member colleges have significant differences, but one major similarity – a hugely competitive entry!

It is important to start research early, ie before the end of the Summer Term for entry a year later.

The Educational Advisory Service of the US-UK Fulbright Commission is the best starting point for advice on universities in the USA.

A useful book: A Fishburn, Uni in the USA: The UK Guide to US Universities, Lucas Publications 2005 (ISBN 0 9532 659 78). There are 23 chapters on individual “big name” universities. The most useful section is the guide to application written by Anthony Nemecek, formerly Director of The Educational Advisory Service of the US-UK Fulbright Commission, who now runs an educational consultancy.

One interesting recent development has been the establishment of satellite campuses by some prominent US unis in the Middle East.

New York Abu Dhabi, for instance, offers an exciting opportunity with very generous financial support to students who are academically able, have a global outlook and have demonstrated leadership ability. InTuition Scholarships negotiate with 120 US unis to find appropriate scholarships for individual students.

Australia & New Zealand Universities

Australia has 18 universities (including an elite “Group of Eight”); New Zealand has just eight.

Their education system is based on the UK model, but the academic year runs February to November.
Some programmes might attract by their environment (eg Marine Biology, Sport Sciences) or entry requirements (eg lower for Veterinary Medicine than in UK).

Consult the Study Options website: They offer a free, independent service to support applicants.

Europe | Irish Republic | Scandinavia Universities

There is an increasing number of universities across most countries in continental Europe offering degree programmes with English-medium teaching (700 as at 2012).

There are also seven universities in the Irish Republic: they operate a similar system to UCAS, but do not make conditional offers, places being allocated after results are received.

Some countries (eg Scandinavia) do not yet have tuition fees, but living costs might be high.

Entry requirements are generally lower than in UK unis, but there might be stringent exams at the end of Year 1. Ask about the percentage of students passing from Year 1 into Year 2.

Start at European Universities’ Central Application Support Service, whose website has a database of English-medium programmes. Guy Flouch, the Director of EUNICAS, travels extensively and is very well informed on evolving opportunities in Europe.

See also A Star Future website.

Notably, Maastricht University in the Netherlands has attracted much UK interest recently:

  • 16 out of 19 undergraduate programmes are taught in English
  • It has 14,500 students, of whom 43% are international (80 from UK)
  • There is a focus on problem-based learning methods, with much group work.

Dear Headteacher

Posted by Dear Headteacher on Tue, 14 Feb 2017



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UniBox's 'Dear Headteacher' series brings together a complete set of guidance articles created by the Director of Higher Education and Careers at Sherborne School, Philip Rogerson, based on his 20 years' experience of helping pupils get the university places they deserve. 'Dear Headteacher' is part call to arms, part hard-headed advice and all good practice. We hope that schools across the UK get some hugely valuable insights out of this 2-week series, especially in terms of supportive advice.

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