Educating global citizens: exploring UK universities

How can mobility professionals best advise assignees with late-teenage children on higher education? London Metropolitan’s Dr Sue Shortland provides some tips for UK university visits.

Educating global citizens: exploring uk universities
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The role of the mobility professional frequently involves advising parents on appropriate schools or engaging a specialist consultant to undertake this. For parents moving with late-teenage children, issues concern next steps – such as which university they should attend, and which course they should study.As part of efforts to support global talent, the mobility professional’s remit may well stretch to giving advice on their country’s higher education system, as international relocation policies do not usually make direct financial provision or give consultancy support for assignees’ children’s tertiary studies.International assignees’ children are often considered to be the global citizens of the future. Given their experience of studying in different cultural and linguistic environments, they often prefer to enter tertiary education in a different country rather than return home. However, while assignees are probably familiar with university entrance procedures in their home countries, they are less likely to know how to go about helping their children with the selection of an appropriate institution in a foreign land.The UK offers high-calibre university education and is one of the top choices for students wishing to take a bachelor’s or master’s degree. But the choice of which university to apply for can be tricky, given the large number of institutions and courses available.Late-teenage children who are studying at schools in the UK are usually enrolled in a state or private school, a sixth-form college or an international school. Schools and colleges in the UK take an active role in assisting students to complete the application process for gaining a UK university place via UCAS. They also help guide students in writing their personal statements.Students usually explore course and university options themselves online, but it is difficult to get a real feel for the culture of the institution from a webpage alone. Relocating families with late-teenage accompanying children may therefore enjoy the opportunity to attend university open days to get a feel for higher education and its student lifestyle. This can assist them in deciding where to undertake university education.Universities compete to fill their places. They set out to show themselves in theirbest light, to attract the most suitable applicants. Once a student has demonstrated interest by including them in their list of choices and the university has made an offer, the institution then aims to ensure that it is the student’s first choice.Universities invest considerable resources in running open days for potential students and applicant days to convert students who have received an offer of a place to convince them to accept it as their first choice.Open Day tipsAttending an open day requires forethought and careful planning. There are usually a range of events taking place concurrently, and it is never possible to fit everything into the time available.For example, the open day will usually include a strategic overview of the university’s mission, future and values given by the vice-chancellor or dean of the faculty. This provides a helpful guide to the ethos of the institution. Subject-based talks, exhibitions, drop-in subject enquiry sessions and subject department tours are given. These are critical to understanding what a course offers and how it runs in practice.In addition, general talks on accommodation, finance, student services and disability services are offered. Tours of housing/ accommodation, the library, the campus, and the town or city also take place. It is important to prioritise the most important of these events, and to distinguish between what is critical to the selection decision (typically the subject talk/ drop-in and visiting the accommodation) and what is interesting to do or see if there is time.Take the opportunity to ask questions to ensure the points that matter are addressed, and take notes, as, after visiting several universities, the key differences can begin to blur. Rushing from one session to another can prove quite stressful, so ensure that sessions are planned to allow time to relax and reflect.Choices made in the space of an open day can be reaffirmed or reconsidered at an applicant day. These days frequently cover similar ground, but with greater emphasis on course specifics.The key issue to remember is that the choice of a university is a life-changing one, and it must be made carefully.
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