Why University Rankings are not everything!
How do many students decide which is a good university to study at? Often they rely on university rankings and advice from friends or family who have studied at a university and can vouch for its quality and the experience they had there. However, there are many reasons why university rankings and advice from friends and family should not be the only thing to consider when judging which is the best place for you. Here are some of the reasons why:
Research Quality or Employment Opportunities?
In many university rankings tables, research scores very highly as an indicator of the universities quality. A university like Harvard or Oxford receives large sums of money for research, but mostly for Master’s degrees and PhDs, rather than Bachelor’s degrees. The professors at these research led institutions teach a lot of theory and are often experts in their fields. If students are going on to do further research such as a research master’s degree or PhD, they will benefit from this type of university. However, they say ‘There is no substitute for experience’ and if you want to leave university with the skills to help you start your career, then the more practical programmes at some of the lower ranked universities may be better for you. These universities, such as Nottingham Trent University, employ professors that have often years of experience and can teach the skills that will benefit your career.
Finding your Comfort Zone, Studying in a Second Language, and Improving Your Employability!
International students at high ranking universities can sometimes find it difficult to get good grades and to compete with the smarter students there. Also, studying in a foreign language means you will have to work a lot harder than your native speaking classmates. You will have to spend a lot of time researching and writing reports and this will consume an awful lot of your time and can be very stressful if your reading or writing is a little weak. Therefore, it is often better for students to accept a university that has a lower ranking as you will find that:
- your classmates are not too much smarter than you and you can be at the top of the class rather than the middle or bottom,
- you can get higher grades, learn more and graduate with a higher class degree,
- you may not have to spend so many hours of stressful study in a foreign language, and therefore
- you will have more time to relax, have fun and enjoy your overseas experience,
- in general, your professors will have more useful practical experience from work in their industry and you will learn more practical skills (rather than more detailed theory) that will improve your employment prospects,
- there can be more chance that your university will have closer ties to industry, giving you more chance of finding work after you graduate,
- lower ranked universities often have internship opportunities that will help you get a job much easier when you return home,
- you can save a lot of money at a lower ranked university (up to USD9,000 per year)
In general, if you want to learn the skills necessary to find a good job, a lower ranked university may well be the best choice for you. If, however, you are a very academic student with very good English, and/or you want to progress to a master’s degree or a PhD, then you should look at the higher ranked universities
More On Rankings
An interesting fact to note is that 14% of the UK universities are in the top 100 in the world university rankings compared to only 1% of USA universities. This is not to take anything away from American education but only to highlight the fact that education standards are very important to the UK government. Universities must keep to a very high standard in order to operate and his means that if you go to a university in the UK that is ranked, say, 70 out of 130 in the country, you can be sure that the quality of your education is still excellent. The same can be said of most developed countries, where state or public universities have to keep up certain standards and lowered ranked universities offer excellent options for students.
Also, Subject Rankings are much more important than overall university rankings. Take Louisiana Tech University in the USA, for example. It is ranked by US News as a ‘Tier 4’ university although it is regarded as one of the top public university to study certain areas of Engineering. James Cook University is not particularly highly ranked worldwide, but for Aquaculture studies it is number 1 in Australia and one of the very top universities in the world.
This is why overseas study agents can be so helpful to guide students in the right direction. Your counselor will be able to guide you through this difficult decision and help you to make the right choice. A good counselor will not push you in any one direction, but provide you with the right options for your future, remembering that the choice is always entirely yours.