Look around the average university library in the West, and among the faces fixed in concentration over their books and laptops, you will see globalization in action. The students who have come from India, or a myriad other nations, are among what UNESCO estimated, in 2009, to be 2.8 million people studying higher education courses outside their home countries. UNESCO predicts that the number will rise to 8 million by 2020, with many experts seeing such students as part of a global circulation of knowledge through universities that brings benefits to all countries.
So what prompts millions of students to leave their home nations and their loved ones to live in a country they may never have seen before? And how do students and parents deal with the potentially frightening challenge of choosing overseas universities, a decision that could shape a student’s life?
Better lifestyle and job opportunities
As with other migrants, one of the main factors driving students to study abroad is the search for a better life. Getting a degree from foreign universities will boost the chances of getting a good job, students believe, and also the advantage of gaining a qualification in English, the language for so much of the international business, media and education worlds.
But there is so much more beyond the formal qualification. Wherever students take their degrees, studying abroad gives them a golden chance to build confidence and initiative, set their own life experiences in a fuller context, and learn to deal with the differences that otherwise create barriers between people. In the United Kingdom, that could include experiencing life in cosmopolitan, historic and dynamic cities such as London, Manchester or Edinburgh, or the more traditional life of a smaller town. Or it could include learning to love British food – hard to do for some – and sampling famous delicacies such as fish and chips. After all that, there is the chance to start a career in your adopted country, or return home with a qualification that makes you stand out from your peers.
But how do students and their parents choose a university that will deliver good teaching and a degree with a decent reputation? They obviously need to be aware of the small number of institutions in the world that focus on the money brought by overseas students, offering only poor standards in return.
One of the aims of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, published in September 2012, is to help undergraduate and postgraduate students around the world in choosing their university. Teaching accounts for 30 per cent of a university’s score, including the judgments of leading academics on which institutions offer the best teaching for their subject. There is also a score for each university’s staff-student ratio, and its international mix of students and staff.
Experts point to the fact that the fees paid by students will produce a more demanding consumer and more competition among universities to attract students.
If you come with deep pockets, and are willing to spend you have plenty of power to make sure you get the education you expect.
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