Choosing a course

Choosing an institution can be difficult enough in one’s own country; in another it can be positively bewildering.

Ideally you need to visit any place you are interested in, but if this is not practicable, you will find a wealth of material online. You might also be able to speak to someone directly at an international student organization. Check if there is an overseas advisory centre in your area which can provide information, and perhaps put you in touch with a representative.

One of the most important points to bear in mind is that most countries have a system of assessing the quality of courses.

For example:

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) through the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) are both accreditation systems for business schools. While both claim to be worldwide, the AACSB has more thorough coverage of the US, and EQUIS of Europe, and it can be particularly useful if you are looking to study business in the US to see which schools are accredited. In the UK, the Quality Assurance Agency is responsible for higher education quality control.

Once you have checked out the metrics of a course you are interested in, there are a range of other issues which you need to consider, from the place where the institution is situated to the type of teaching. Here are issues which you might find useful to add to your own checklist.

How attractive is the place where the university is situated? Can you imagine yourself living there for several years? Does it provide the sports or artistic amenities you require? Would you be happier in a small town or a large one? Try and find out independent estimates of its attractions – the institution’s website is bound to talk it up.

What impression can you gain of the quality of the teaching environment? For example, how many faculty are there, and do they represent areas in which you are interested?

Is the style of teaching lecture based, are you encouraged to learn independently, how many teaching hours are there per course? If you are studying a vocational subject, such as business studies, what is the possibility of gaining relevant work experience? What is the method of assessment? Is it continuous, with marks on coursework contributing to the final degree classification, or is it based on examination? Finally, what about cost?

The cost of fees can vary enormously, and some schools, while high on your "aspiration list", may just not be affordable.

Careful consideration of what you can afford may concentrate the mind wonderfully and help you narrow down your list to those courses which meet your requirements. MBAs For an MBA, you need to be particularly concerned that it offers the subjects in which you are interested in sufficient depth, and that the faculty has enough research and practical expertise.

You also need to think about size – a course with a lot of students may have a lower staff-student ratio, but on the other hand will bring you into contact with more people.

Other questions you need to consider include: Is the learning environment competitive or collaborative? Are there opportunities for development of leadership, teamwork or entrepreneurial skills? Does the course place emphasis on a particular method (for example some schools follow Harvard’s case study approach)?

Most business schools have an alumni association – how many and how active in this case? An international degree A current trend is for universities to form cross-boundary partnerships so that you can study for different years at different institutions and still get a recognized degree, or take part in an exchange.

This way, you have the best of both worlds – studying both at home and abroad. Your university’s international office should be able to advise you.