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UK students exercise freedom of choice and more of them head for top US universities

US CollegesUS universities used to be thought too costly for all but the wealthiest British students, but things have changed.  With UK university fees now hitting £9,000 a year, and with US institutions competing with scholarships to attract top talent, more Brits than ever before are heading westward over the Atlantic for their education.  Graeme Paton, Education Editor at the Telegraph reports that nearly 10,000 UK students took US courses in 2011-2012, and expects the numbers to be even higher this year.  Undoubtedly one of the attractions is the breadth of the liberal arts curriculum in the US, with students allowed to take many more subjects than their UK counterparts to include in their degree.  Another is the reputation of top US universities, with most Ivy League colleges reporting big increases in student numbers from the UK.

A further factor is the attempt by the UK government to pressurize universities here into social engineering, leading them to take less qualified state school students ahead of privately educated ones with higher qualifications.  Rather than be pushed into a less prestigious university, increasing numbers are turning their attention instead to US ones with worldwide reputations.  The head of Bedales School reports that one in twenty students now go abroad, and predicts it will rise within five years to one in ten.

I am often asked by sixth-formers for advice and help with university admissions, and I routinely suggest they include at least one prestigious US institution as a ‘banker,’ in case they fail to gain an admissions offer from a UK one of sufficient quality.  A student who fails to be admitted to Oxford, Cambridge or London, has the option of obtaining a no less prestigious degree from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT and the others.  This trend, accelerated as it has been by the actions of UK governments, is actually a good thing.   It is great that British students have access to more choices than those available in the UK.  It is also good that they can choose to study a broader curriculum, and it is good that they can gain a perspective outside of what they could experience in their own country.  Globalization in education is no less good than globalization in the rest of the economy.

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