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Student’s perspective: why UK Unis are so popular?

October 28, 2009

I’m an Erasmus Mundus student. Erasmus Mundus is an EU-funded scholarship. Erasmus Mundus students are required to attend at least two universities in EU. My program of study is European Master in Informatics, or EuMI as we called it. EuMI  consists of three universities in three countries, as stated on its website. But, honestly, four universities and five cities involved in the program. Some EuMI students might only have to visit two universities. But, in my case, I have to visit three universities in two countries: Edinburgh in the UK and RWTH Aachen and Bonn in Germany. The program is two years. I had spent the first year in Edinburgh and now I’m starting the second year in Germany. Although I had been in Germany for less than two weeks, I saw so many differences in student’s live in the two countries that I think they can tell why UK universities are so popular for international students, at least when comparing to German universities.

First of all, English has become lingua-franca in academia, especially in science. Students who wish to pursuit higher education, by default, have some prior knowledge of English even before they decide where they would like to study. Therefore, naturally, English speaking countries come up to everyone’s mind. Unless the student really knows what he/she wants, he/she would unlikely consider studying in non-English speaking countries. Students get higher education when they are grown-up. Grown-ups are expected to take care of themselves; therefore, they will avoid wasting their time. If the purpose of study is not foreign language, why would a person want to spend time learning language? English programs do exist in non-English speaking countries but the world is bigger than the class room; thus, undeniably, students still need to learn another foreign language. Why would you want to overcome the hassle when you have better option?

If, for some reason, you accept language challenge, other factors are still counted. If you are happened to be non-EEA (European Economy Area) student, you will need a visa to study in Europe. If you were unconditionally accepted by an  UK university, you would highly likely get a visa that cover your period of study (, provided that you can show financial support, of course). But, if you were unconditionally accepted by a German university, you would get a visa that cover only three months, at most, and you need to renew it after you arrive in Germany (, well, there might be exception but it’s very rare). Visiting authority is never a pleasure so you would want to keep it at minimum. Moreover, in Germany, everybody must report his/her address to the authority. Another hassle. So, in total, you need at least two more authority visits if you decide to study in Germany rather than the UK. I don’t know the rule of other countries but I think it hard to beat the UK in this aspect. The UK really makes it easy for students.

I had visited some UK universities and found they were pretty dense. Most of school buildings were in the same area. I found it impressive as it gave the sense of multi-discipline. Moreover, I can easily get around on foot, which is very convenient. On the contrary, so far, I had visited two German universities, Bonn and RWTH Aachen, and found they were sparse. I can’t get around on foot because university’s buildings were very far away from each other.

Student accommodation also makes the difference. I’m aware this varies university to university so this would be comparison between Edinburgh and Bonn. In Edinburgh, I did everything online and I never have to visit the student accommodation office. All I had to do were go there and take my keys. Easy. In Bonn, almost everything were offline. I had to fax application form to the accommodation office, go there to sign contract when I arrive in Germany, pay deposit in cash as I don’t have German card which I can’t have it because I don’t have address in Germany, take the keys, and go back to the office to return the direct debit form. Moreover, I got fully furnished flat in Edinburgh but partly furnished in Bonn. I don’t have reading lamp, I don’t have microwave oven, I don’t have chop board. I got bed sheet and stuffs but they were used. So I had to go to buy new ones on the first day because I wasn’t sure whether they were clean. I have to share bathroom, toilet, and kitchen with other four folks. I only shared bathroom and toilet with other two friends in Edinburgh. The kitchen for three in Edinburgh was bigger than one for five in Bonn. The fridge in Edinburgh was much better than what I got here as well. I also got a clean person to clean shared area in Edinburgh, but I don’t get one in Bonn. However, this is an unfair comparison because the rent in Edinburgh was twice of the rent in Bonn. So, you may say I get what I pay for. But I would say I’m willing to pay more to get better accommodation. I feel the room in Bonn is not worth the money.

Moreover, since Edinburgh’s campus was dense, student accommodations were so close to the schools that students can walk to school. It was a very pleasant life. In contrast, students in Bonn can’t walk to school as it is so far away (in my case, 30+ minute walk). This is bad since I don’t get exercise as by product when going to school. Also, I can’t do something meaningful while commuting.

German universities have advantages over UK’s too. At least, German universities provide cheap and decent food. Food in student cafe in Edinburgh has narrow range of choices and is expensive.

Last but certainly not least, the education system surely influences the decision. In the UK, a Master course usually takes only one year. Elsewhere, it takes two years. Personally, a year is a long time. As I already said no one wants to waste his/her time. You could make a fortune in one year. Therefore, why would you want to spend one more year on studying for the same type of degree? You surely gain some more expertise in the extra year but you can also acquire it from other sources. And the expertise obtained outside the class room is usually more appreciated than in class expertise. Moreover, these days, you can’t teach in top university without being a PhD, or at least a PhD candidate. Thus, spending more time in Master course is unreasonable. Therefore, I do believe the UK system is better for student.

In conclusion, the UK universities, at least Edinburgh, do a very good job to accommodate international student’s needs. Students need minimum effort to adjust to the life as they are in English speaking country. The regulation is simple. The environment is good.  Student accommodation offers great value, although at high price as well. Most importantly, the length of study makes them really special.

I wish I graduate this year.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. izzueelsa permalink
    October 28, 2009 11:53 pm

    I was gobsmacked when I saw you fax your accommodation requirement form to Germany.
    I could not understand why they don’t introduce an on-line booking service, isn’t it more convenient and less costly?

    Applying for a residence permit and other administration stuff are really annoying, in particular, when you have to adjust yourself quickly to the new culture. But, on the other hand, I think it is a precious opportunity for you to learn yourself better. You would learn how to be well-organised, and to keep calm when you’re in trouble. You would learn how to see this world from different angles. You would be more mature and thoughtful. You would be more persistent and determined………Personally, I think the advantages of studying in a non-English speaking country, for example, Germany, outweighs than the UK. Because you will be like a sponge absorbing as much new ideas as you can. Isn’t it good?

    About one or two years Master’s programme, I have an opposite idea as yours. Perhaps you are much smarter than ordinary people, so you think it is kind of wasting time to spend two years on a Mater’s degree. But, from my experience, as a recent graduate, I think one-year taught programme is not enough. Frankly, I do not think I learn a lot from class. Plus, I spent almost my first term on conquering language barrier, I could say I learnt nothing about business expertise but quite a lot of correct English. I should be happy with it, shouldn’t I? ~”~

  2. Nataliia permalink
    April 19, 2010 4:30 pm

    Your story is very interesting.
    Could you tell me please did you pay the registration deposit to study in EuMI and was it also 100 euro? Thank you.

    • kittipatv permalink*
      May 16, 2010 8:21 pm

      Sorry for late reply.

      No I didn’t pay the deposit, I am awarded the scholarship so I am exempted from any tuition fees.

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