How good is a foreign university?
Information from different sources will make the task of choosing your institution easier.
Photo: R. Shivaji Rao
BACKGROUND CHECK: Assessing the standing of a university abroad is not difficult. It can be done by contacting alumni.
There are different methods for assessing the quality of a foreign university. You may get ideas from popular rankings made by different organisations. But you should not blindly follow any one ranking. Sometimes educational fairs may give you detailed information. You may be able to seek clarifications. There again you should not fully trust what pleasing sales talk or attractive brochures try to convey.
A good method is to interact with alumni who would be able to relate faithfully their experience. Even if you cannot come into direct contact with them, it may be possible to interact though e-mail or telephone. Many universities have alumni registers you can access through the Internet. This would help you in identifying alumni from whom you can gather essential information.
The proportion of international students in a campus is often considered as one of the indicators of reputation of a university or institution. While comparing the quality of educational institutions, you should not be obsessed with their past glory. The current facilities should also be taken as a significant parameter. At the top level, sometimes the number of Nobel laureates produced adds to the reputation. But such comparisons are not relevant when we consider the admission of students in the usual course. However, the number of Ph.Ds in a department and the teacher-pupil ratio are certainly significant.
You have to compare the reputation of universities, since a graduate from a better university has brighter prospects of building a better career. He may start with a higher salary in a better organisation. But your steps have to be sensible and pragmatic. If you try to secure admission only in institutions of great repute, it is quite possible that you end up with no admission at all. It is prudent to seek admission simultaneously in a few other institutions as well. By this strategy, you ensure that you have a chance of joining a great institution. If unfortunately you do not succeed in it, you certainly have an opportunity in another institution though not of the same level of reputation and quality. It is a bitter fact of life that all aspirants cannot study in Harvard, MIT, or Oxford.
You should keep in mind that all the departments in a university of repute may not be equally good. To begin with, you may select a university. But afterwards, you should study in detail the facilities in the department you intend to join. If they are not satisfactory, you may change your initial choice and look for other institutions. Perhaps a university that does not enjoy the label of a centre of excellence may have excellent faculty and laboratory facilities in some of its departments. The presence of a couple of eminent scientists or scholars in a department can enhance its prestige.
An important decision pertains to the choice of the country for higher studies. Apart from the U.S. and the U.K., some of the popular destinations are Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Singapore, and Sweden. There are nearly 90,000 Indian students in Australia. The recent racist attacks on Indian students in that country will certainly bring down the outflow to that country for sometime. However, it is likely that the flow is restored since our students as well as the Australian universities have interests in the continuance of the association.
Some of the top universities in the world are listed below. The list is indicative. No ranking among those listed here has been made.
Harvard University, U.S.
University of Oxford, U.K.
University of Cambridge, U.K.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, U.S.
Stanford University, U.S.
Yale University, U.S.
California Institute of Technology, U.S.
Imperial College, London, U.K.
Princeton University, U.S.
University of Pennsylvania, U.S.
University of Tokyo, Japan
Peking University, China
Duke University, U.S.
Johns Hopkins University, U.S.
Cornell University, U.S.
Australian National University, Australia
McGill Univesity, Canada
National University of Singapore
ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India
The Ivy League is a group of eight private institutions of higher education in the Northeastern United States. These schools are noted for academic excellence, selectivity in admissions. Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale are the eight institutions.
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