There’s a recent trend among college students and it has nothing to do with fashion or even music.
In the last five years, the number of students from the US attending universities in the UK has increased by 30 per cent, according to Britain’s Higher Education Statistics Agency.
A large reason for this is the significantly lower tuition costs of schools throughout the UK compared to private or out-of-state schools in the US, says Kate Norman of the British Council, an organization promoting educational opportunities and cultural relations abroad.
For example, the University of Edinburgh in Scotland is ranked 20th in the world, according to the 2011 QS World University Rankings, a UK-based ranking company.
The cost of undergraduate tuition in the humanities per year for international students at Edinburgh is $28,000, including room and board.
Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, is ranked 24th by QS and tuition costs $41,592.
But the total annual cost, including room and board, books and other fees could total as much as $58,429, according to Northwestern’s website.
Schools in the UK may be more affordable, but the curriculum is also much different.
In the UK, gen eds — courses which all students, regardless of major, must take — are not required.
Ms Norman explains that if a student is majoring in humanities, for example, he or she is not required to take a math or science course, because high schools in the UK are much more specialized compared to the US.
Robert Willis, an international officer specializing in North America from the University of Edinburgh, believes this model allows for “the opportunity to specialize at an earlier stage of your degree”.
But Mark Kelly, vice president of student affairs at Columbia College in Chicago, believes there must be balance between a student’s major and core classes.
Although most students come to Columbia with clear interests, he says, the benefits of core classes are still present.
Another concern with UK standards is that flexibility is out of the question.
Universities don’t allow students to make any drastic changes such as switching from an English to chemistry major, unlike in American universities where schools allow incoming freshmen to declare an undecided major.
The good news, though, is that students who graduate from UK schools can still get the same job opportunities in the US.
“A large majority of US employers would view a candidate with a UK degree either the same or better than those with a US degree,” says Ms Norman.