UK and US universities vary in several regards. Perhaps the biggest one relates to majors or courses of study. In the US, students aren't expected to know what they want to study when they apply to university. In the first two years, students take classes in many disciplines which provide an overview of the arts, humanities, mathematics, natural sciences, and social sciences.
This is done as a preparation for a variety of careers versus a specific career path. Except in professional areas like engineering, students don’t specialize (choose a major) until the final two years. The rationale is that people no longer choose a professional path and remain in that same job for a lifetime. It’s important that regardless of their job, they are broadly educated and can write well, communicate and solve problems.
In the UK, the process of education is quite different. Students apply to universities to study a particular course or subject. For those who are certain they want to study economics or biology or some other specialized academic area, the UK provides a very specialized academic program.
Individual classes all relate to the course of study. A typical degree takes three years to complete rather than four years in the US. This can be a significant saving both in terms of money and time.
Applications to the UK and US reflect these differences. In the UK, students apply through a centralized application centre and are limited to five applications. It consists of information about where you want to study, exams scores (predicted or final), a one page personal statement and a one page reference that supports your suitability for the course.
In the US, applications vary by institution with each university asking different questions and requiring different information. Applications can be tedious and ask a lot more about life outside of the classroom. There is no limit on the number of applications - other than the amount of time it takes to complete each one.
Universities in Singapore, Hong Kong and Canada - thanks partly to their British roots - follow more of the UK model of universities.
When it comes to choosing a university, it’s important to understand the differences between the various systems and choose the type that will best lend itself to both academic and personal success.
Zohaib Sikander (Zo) Digital/Online Marketing Officer at British International School, Phuket - BISP. It is an English medium, coeducational, day and boarding school. Visit their website www.bisphuket.ac.th for more information.