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Higher education possibilities around the world

Postgraduate studies, whether master’s degrees, MBAs or short courses, are becoming increasingly common in our modern economy characterized by specialization and globalization. In fact, the growth of postgraduate degrees, diplomas and certificates in some countries is now higher than the growth in undergraduate degrees. Master’s degrees, PhDs and courses are available in just about every academic discipline imaginable and with thousands of universities around the world to choose from, everyone pursuing postgraduate studies can find a school and program that is perfect for their needs.

There are many different types of universities and other higher education institutions around the world. Although the details vary by country, most fall into one of several categories, such as:

  • General universities that focus on both research and coursework and offer a wide variety of academic disciplines;
  • Business schools that focus on MBAs and other business-related graduate degrees;
  • Technical institutions that focus on academic disciplines related to science, technology, engineering and math;
  • Art institutions that focus on art-related disciplines such as sculpture, painting, theater and dance;
  • Education institutions that focus on degrees for professionals who teach at the primary and secondary education levels.

Students who enroll in a master’s degree program from a research-oriented university can usually expect to conduct a research project or write a thesis in addition to coursework. Master’s programs taught by other institutions may also require some sort of project, but generally tend to focus more on coursework or practical experience. Nearly all PhD programs require original research and a dissertation.

Potential students may also want to consider studying abroad, particularly if they are interested in highly specialized academic disciplines such as international business of Middle East studies. Students are increasingly studying across borders for all levels of tertiary education (college or university-level studies). According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics (UIS), the number of students studying abroad is approaching 4 million per year, nearly double the 2 million studying abroad in 2000. Students from East Asia and the Pacific make up 28 percent of this total, while students from North America and Europe account for about 15 percent. The countries that send the most students abroad are China, India and the Republic of Korea. About 6 percent of students from Central Asia and about 5 percent of students from sub-Saharan Africa study abroad, making students from those regions the most mobile in the world. The current top destinations for international students are the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Germany and Japan.

Many students are also enrolled in online or distance learning graduate-level programs taught in countries other than their country of residence. These students are not included in the UIS numbers, so the total number of international students is somewhat higher, likely more than 4 million.

Students may want to consider studying abroad for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Being able to select from the world’s top programs for a given academic discipline. In addition, some academic disciplines are only available in a handful of countries, or the best programs are available in only certain regions. For example, someone interested in Buddhist studies will find the best programs in Thailand.
  • Studying in a different culture. Students pursuing master’s degrees, PhDs or courses in regional studies should consider a program taught in that region to obtain a full cultural immersion. In addition, students planning careers in international business will gain invaluable experience from living in another culture.
  • Increased language skills if the program is taught in a different language than the student’s native tongue. In addition, although many international master’s and PhD programs are now taught in English even in non-English speaking countries, students may have the opportunity to increase their language skills through extra studies or assimilation with the local population.

Students considering pursuing a postgraduate degree may want to consider the following factors when deciding whether to study at a university in their home country or abroad:

  • The cost of the program, including living expenses. Some countries offer inexpensive or even free tuition, but high living expenses may offset those savings. However, many countries and individual universities offer scholarships and other types of financial aid, and some of these are targeted at international students. Countries also vary widely regarding how much international students are allowed to work, and some countries do not allow international students to work at all. Health insurance costs also vary widely from one country to another.
  • The quality of the education gained, relative to the expense and intangible factors of studying abroad, such as cultural immersion and language skills. Although all accredited master’s programs meet a high level of standards, teaching methods vary widely across different schools, programs and cultures. In addition, some students may find that they learn less when studying in a non-native language.
  • Language skills required. Students not proficient in the language of instruction for a particular course of study may need to spend an additional year or so gaining that proficiency. Sometimes the students can gain this proficiency through studies in their native country, but in other cases they may need to spend additional time abroad.
  • Type of studies offered, such as part-time versus full-time, online and distance learning. Most countries require international students residing in the country on a student visa to study on a full-time basis. However, students already living in another country on a work permit may be able to pursue studies on a part-time basis. In addition, online and distance learning programs offer great flexibility.
  • Impact on family members, for students with families. Family members may need language skills as well, and some countries do not allow spouses to work even if the student can work.

Take the time now to check out universities from around the world. If you already know what you’re looking for, you can click directly to that country or to specific programs. Or take some time to browse and read about the exciting programs available worldwide.