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Selecting the right university

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With so many choices and misconceptions, here are some things to consider.

Surrounded by fellow students of many different nationalities, heading off to universities in every country imaginable, the options for students at international schools can seem endless.

From the outset, international students have a wonderful “the-world-is-your-oyster” outlook on life. However, this invaluable perspective can make the decision all the more daunting. From the word go, the pressure is on parents to put their children in international schools abroad. Thus teachers are often faced with questions such as, “If my child takes SATs and AP classes, will this make going to university in the UK difficult?” Or, they might be asked, “If they leave school with A Levels, then surely college in the US will not be an option?”

Both of these questions represent common misconceptions. Whether staying in Japan, or going to the US, the UK or elsewhere, your child’s education will be valuable and the merits transferable.

Studying at university abroad is a rewarding experience for any student, but there are a few important things to think about in order to choose the right one.

Students should ask themselves, “Which course do I want to study? Will studying this course in a particular country enrich my experience?”

Along with help from parents and school career advisors, students should be researching their prospective course thoroughly; not just looking at the major offered, but rather at the breakdown of what each individual module or unit entails. Tuition fees, the cost of living and the distance from home are also sensible considerations that should be taken into account.

From a financial point of view, UK universities are currently a very viable option for many students. Charging reasonable overseas fees of around £13,000 per annum and providing priority student housing means that Russell Group, Oxbridge-standard colleges, such as Kings College London and Imperial College London, provide considerably more affordable degrees than, for example, US Ivy League colleges, which can charge $55,000 to $70,000 a year. One can apply to UK universities through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (www.ucas.ac.uk), which has an abundance of information for students thinking of entering higher education in the UK.

For those considering staying closer to home, in Japan alone there are many universities delivering courses in English. In 2011 the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport (MEXT) launched the Global 30 Project. The government-driven project, which aims to increase the number of international students to 300,000 by the year 2020, initially chose 13 universities in Japan to pioneer English-taught courses.

At Osaka University, international students are offered two undergraduate courses in Global Citizenship and Contemporary Japan. At Waseda University, the International Christian University, Hiroshima University and Meiji University—to name but a few—Liberal Arts and Global Studies programmes are proving popular. Most of these universities offer scholarships and bursaries to appropriate candidates.

Before making that final decision on where to go, the best advice to students is simple: do your homework. If visiting the campus isn’t an option, then send off for the prospectus and use the website. It’s a good idea to have a conversation with someone from the admissions department at each of your preferred universities or, even better, to go directly to someone in the prospective faculty.

Speak to your college or university advisor in school; they might know alumni or current staff at certain universities. Many faculties, especially in larger universities, have international admissions staff and they should be able to give you a lot of advice in regard to courses and information on admission deadlines.

Make sure that you are accurately informed concerning any visa requirements or financial rules that may apply. It is also a good idea to check if there are any scholarships or bursaries for which you may be eligible.

Every parent dreams of their child going to Oxford, Harvard or the University of Tokyo, but each student and institution is different. Students should aim for the right course for them and, with the right amount of support, this should shape them into employable adults once they have finished their degree.

More information: www.uni.international.mext.go.jp/ www.ucas.ac.uk/

© Japan Today

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23 Comments
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I remember once way back when I was a physics undergrad, and one of the students complained that our textbooks weren't as nice as some other, expensive universities. The professor responded with "The laws of physics are the same no matter where you learn them."

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Choice of subject is far more important than a fancy name of a fancy university, where professors are too busy wiht admiring themselves. And even the best professors in the world have limited amounts of time for their students. The better they are, the less time they tend to have.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This article is simply common sense 101

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Every parent dreams of their child going to Oxford, Harvard or the University of Tokyo,

Wrong.

I wouldn't let my kids go to these schools (or other so-callled "elite" ones) even if they were free.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

My son can go where he likes, and if he's good enough for Oxford or Harvard I would encourage him to go there. I would advise him to give Tokyo a miss though: that's where many of the politicians and bureaucrats come from and we can all see how hopeless they are.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I think the writer is a bit optimistic about the fees at British universities. For classroom courses (eg. English Lit), you might get somewhere like Kings College London for 14-15000 pounds (no euros!) per year; but for lab-based courses at places like Imperial College you would be looking at 25,000. Also, accommodation, even student hall accommodation in London is very expensive. I believe that recently it was estimated that with fees, accommodation and living expenses, a student would need about 50,000 pounds per year. Not as expensive as Stanford or Harvard, but still a considerable expense to be budgeted for.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Harvard and Oxford in the same breath as University Tokyo? don't think so, todai doesn't compare. i advise japanese students to steer clear of japanese universities and instead go to community college in america (I'm partial to california because its the only livable state there) then transfer to a university of their choice in the US. American K-12 may well be the worst in the world, but their tertiary education is second to non. Harvard over Oxford any day.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Students should aim for the right course for them

This says it all. There is no one-size-fits-all 'best' school or university.

with the right amount of support, this should shape them into employable adults once they have finished their degree.

But personally I would not be happy with a course that focused solely on making people 'employable'.

ben4short - By the time your kids are old enough to be considering university, do you not expect them to be old enough to make their own decisions? Parents can advise, but that's all. In practical terms of course if you're paying the fees you can use the veto card, but....

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Choose a subject which can be the most enjoyed, have the maximum amount of fun, while "learning" and forget about employment until the day comes. Make some life long great friends and join the social clubs.

Going to university for most people is a once in a life time experience, while working takes a whole life time.

If possible, go to an overseas university.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Well, of Global 30 is a good idea.

In reality, the number is universities participating is less: 13 or so.

See:

http://www.uni.international.mext.go.jp/documents/Study_in_English_at_Jp_Univ.pdf

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This glabal 30 idea wud have been good 20-30yrs ago, but now its clearly designed to just try to keep J-schools from going under!

Combine this with higher costs worldwide & Uni is looking less & less worthwhile wherever you live, value for $$$ just AINT there anymore, at the rate its going only the rich will be able to go.

As for Japan in general if you got kids, make sure they learn english or whatever your parent tongue is, encourage them to look outside Japan for education, work, because Japan AINT what she used to be!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

haha glabal = global! Maybe I shud go back to school........

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Don't forget to consider the male:female ratio too, haha!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Whether staying in Japan, or going to the US, the UK or elsewhere, your child’s education will be valuable and the merits transferable.

Nonsense. Pure and utter nonsense. Some countries, like Germany, don't recognise degrees from a lot of other countries, and U.S. degrees from all but the top colleges have a very bad reputation in Europe (and with good reason, I've read some of the so-called "Masters theses" coming out of U.S. universities and they abound with fundamental errors in research methodology and basic logic). In some countries, like Australia, students will be required to demonstrate their competency by completing an RPL (recognition of prior learning) test, and so the quality of education is critical.

Likewise some careers, such as medicine and law, have limited transferability between countries.

I'd advise this author to be a little more cautious in making sweeping statements like this without any real inside knowledge of current developments in tertiary education. The days of people just accepting a masters or doctoral certificate as universal are long past, and universities and employers are becoming more and more critical, especially with 30-year-olds in the U.S. claiming multiple doctoral level qualifications and generally degrading any value of the qualification I don't blame overseas universities for questioning the value of these qualifications.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Zichi, those perhaps less priviledged than your good self have the worry about paying off huge debts. Yes, they can have fun but a career that can help the find a good career is the prime reason. Unless of course daddy and his chums can be called upon to get little Johnny or Jane a job when they finish regardless of their grades.

University benefits few, at the most it is needed by 20% of the population. For most, working straight from leaving school is the best option. If you work hard you will be in a good position with your career and financially. Most who leave university have job uncertainty and huge debts upon finishing.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

it is needed by 20% of the population.

That was for the generation of your parents. From now, it's for 95%. You have degree it's useless, but you don't have it, you go nowhere : you are excluded in advance from application for tons of job, you can't get visas, you can't apply to enter most professional classes that would allow you to progress...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The professor responded with "The laws of physics are the same no matter where you learn them."

That's why he is teaching undergrad physics even though he has on the paper the degrees to be called "professor".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Cos; Utter BS. Don't believe the myth and lies. 95%, are you for real. Higher education in itself including apprentice type courses only benefit about 75% of school leavers.

I don't have a degree, left school at 16, went on a Youth Training scheme in UK working at Nestle and completed a business studies course. worked there three years was frugal and saved every penny. Now running my own business in Japan and i doubt many here are earning anywhere near my ncome.

Most important is confidence and common sense, not leaving education at a late age with huge debts. There are still many jobs that give aptitude tests if you use COMMON SENSE instead of being a sheep you can find them. For example a large amount of traders in the City of London left school at 16 and although many despise them are doing nicely.

My advice don't limit your options, don't get in debt for a useless degree unless you are highly certain of gaining decnt employment.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Cos is somewhat right. You need an awful amount of luck to get a decently paid white collar job without university degrees. There are exceptions though. E.g. German nurses are extremely popular around the world, even though they do not study at a university. Instead, they have a long training and education at hospitals (don't remember how many years). And many of them, if they really want it, can easily study later on and get a medical degree. They are however, far more practical and savvy with patients than university grad nurses who wasted away multiple years in stupefying lectures.

However, the place where professors teach doesn't state very much about their qualifications. The only big difference is, how much money they and their subordinate researchers have to spend. That can be quite a big difference, even if the source of funding and the university is the same.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

`JohnyGlitterball,

@Zichi, those perhaps less priviledged than your good self have the worry about paying off huge debts.

I wasn't very privileged, just a working class hero from Liverpool. Worked from the age of 16-years, apprentice electrical engineer. Got into technical college because of that and went to a Poly Tech College. All paid by my employer. I earned good money too.

Later I went to Art University for painting, which I know do but that too was before students fees were introduced (UK) and I was actually paid to attend plus all my fees paid plus transport, plus art materials.

When I was short of money I was able to do some electrical work, contract or temp. Did that for decades.

I feel sad and angry that students must begin their working lives in debt. Just not the right way to start. My daughters are still paying off their student loans.

I believe that all education up to post graduate level should be free. Those leaving will get higher paid jobs and will pay more taxes.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Don't believe the myth and lies.

Thanks for the warning about your stories.

i doubt many here are earning anywhere near my income.

So what ? Look at Yu Darvish, high school drop out, he makes more money than most Todai grads. True. But not going to daigaku (senmon gakko, whatever...) doesn't not transform you into a champion, a genius, etc. Don't renounce to your top model career to go to uni, you can study later when you are rich, of course. But I note that even Bill Gates went to Harvard. like a sheep... till his great business idea became a concrete project.

My advice don't limit your options,

You limit yourself if you don't get the standard education level for your generation.

working at Nestle and completed a business studies course.

So you have a degree, even a good one. That's it's called uni or not is not the point. Then the past, my grand-dad left school at 13 (he was a "scholar" in times when free school was until 11 and they missed the classes when they had to work in the fields... Hello, Mr Dickens !), and did a good career as a civil servant... But in 2012, the entry level of his job is a uni degree plus a competitive entrance exam.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Cos, no i don't have a degree, in my day only the top 20% or so went to universities the rest went to poly or worked.

So what about my income? You stated that a university degree is needed to progress and that is nonsense.How many are leaving university now burdened with debt for a decade or two to find jobs with lower pay than those who left school at sixteen? i said university is only for some. There is no way that even 30% of any countries population could succeed in University unless it has all been dumbed down beyond belief in the last decade or so.

I don't care what anyone else earns btw but i get many back here and in Uk judging me by my background and lack of what the call education.

@Zichi, indeed you are priviledged to live ina time when society appreciated your effort and didnot burden you with massive debt. The way then meant you had an optimistic and positive outlook, The idiotic scheme of university for all means clever chaps like you would be burdened upon leaving.Every Tom Dick and Harry going is not what it is all about and most are conned into getting in debt and finding low paid work. I also had the opportunity for free further education but took the opotion of YTS which was working 3 days a week and studying 2 days a week for which i received 30 GBP a week.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@JohnyGlitterball,

@Zichi, indeed you are priviledged to live ina time when society appreciated your effort and didnot burden you with massive debt. The way then meant you had an optimistic and positive outlook.

That's true, but also because I worked and paid income taxes prior to entering university.

The idiotic scheme of university for all means clever chaps like you would be burdened upon leaving.Every Tom Dick and Harry going is not what it is all about and most are conned into getting in debt and finding low paid work.

That's not what I said, which is I think education should be free up to graduate level. But only those with the necessary qualification would be able to apply, no change on that point.

I also had the opportunity for free further education but took the opotion of YTS which was working 3 days a week and studying 2 days a week for which i received 30 GBP a week.

Well good for you and a better choice than the dole line.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

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