Education May 2012

Selecting the Right University

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 (, 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.

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