Recent figures show that a record 9,500 UK students went to the US to study in the current academic year. This represents a 5 percent increase from last year, but the total has only risen by about 1,000 in a decade. By contrast some 16,000 US students came to the UK in the current year. Universities Minister David Willetts has called for more UK students to do the same. Part of the recent increase is probably down to the increased university fees in the UK, plus the fact that many US institutions offer generous scholarships to students from overseas. In some cases a bright student can hope to win a “full ride” with all fees paid for the entire course. Most UK students are apparently choosing places like New York, Harvard, Los Angeles and Northwestern, among others.
Mr Willetts also called for more UK universities to follow the lead of the US by offering broad liberal arts degrees in which students assemble a range of courses from the humanities and the social and biological sciences before specializing later. They do provide a more rounded education. For four years I was Professor of Philosophy at Hillsdale, a place specializing in just that kind of first degree. There was no research arm; it was a place dedicated to teaching students for their undergraduate degree. I formed a high opinion of US university education. It was less specialized, and no doubt a UK graduate in any subject would take it to a higher standard, but on a very narrow base by comparison. I am very much in favour of more UK students applying for places in US institutions. It gives them more choices, and it gives the UK universities more competition. And it has the added advantage of giving UK students insights into a wider world beyond their shores, and international experience and contacts that will stand them in good stead later in life.
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