Category Archives: UK

What it costs to study where…

According to an infographic created by Forbes based on student fess (this excludes tuition)

The information is culled from a report by the bank HSBC. I cannot find anything more recent than September, 2014. The more interesting document I found has to do with parent ambitions, which was just released froma survey of over 5000 parents in 16 countries. Some key insights:

Structures that promote caring, Part II: The Residential College

Residential Colleges

Since the earliest days of Universities, students have lived in a system that has become known as the Residential College. Starting in Cambridge and Oxford, many other universities adopted the Residential Colleges as they sprung up. In modern times, the residential college has become synonamous with places like YaleRice, and University of California at Santa Cruz.  Collegiate way lists another 28 colleges in the USA that offer students the opportunity to live and learn in a residential college. Some Universities, like Duke and Vanderbilt offer a freshman residential experience that would be on par.

The Residential College is not just a dormitory, but something much more important and integral to the learning experience:

In its most generic sense, the term may be used to refer to an institution that houses most of its students on-campus as opposed to an institution with a large commuter or off-campus population. Many small, independent, liberal arts colleges conform to this definition of residential college. In a more restricted sense, the term residential college may be used interchangeably with terms such as living-learning center, theme house, and residential learning community. This usage, however, may obscure important differences between the classical model of residential college, conventional residence halls, and other types of contemporary residence education programs.

And more:

A 1998 meta-analysis by Gregory Blimling of studies published from 1966 through June 1997 shows, however, that residential colleges, as compared to conventional halls, increase students’ academic performance and retention and enhance the social climate of the living unit. Blimling’s study does not distinguish clearly between classic residential colleges and living-learning centers.

According to studies conducted in 1991 by George D. Kuh and associates and in 1993 by Jerry A. Stark, faculty participating in residential colleges or living/learning centers report improvement in their teaching skills and enhanced relationships with faculty from other disciplines. Frances Arndt reported in 1993 that faculty also held positive attitudes about opportunities offered by residential colleges for teaching a variety of special and experimental courses.

Also well worth the reading an artcile for StateUniversity.Com And this: 

Previous literature has consistently demonstrated a positive influence of residential living on the success of a student’s university experience (Stevens, 1996; LaNasa, Olson & Alleman, 2007). The impact of residential living on the university experience is believed to be multidimensional (Zhao & Kuh, 2004), it may also depend on how satisfied the student is with their arrangement. The most successful residential colleges are those living-learning colleges prominent in USA (LaNasa et. al, 2007). These colleges facilitate not only heightened living conditions but the environment assists to recruit and support student success and learning. Therefore such findings emphasise the need for residential communities to not only be a place to live, but to also foster academics and student success. There has been shown that on-campus living has a positive, often indirect effect on student growth and social development, this is associated with the on-campus environment increasing student involvement through maximised opportunities for social, cultural and extracurricular involvement (LaNasa et al, 2007).

Other research shows that

Students in residential learning communities had significantly higher levels of involvement, interaction, integration, and gains in learning and intellectual development than did students in traditional residence halls. 

The Collegiate Way, a web sit dedicated to Residential College, provides four questions that you should ask when exploring how a college’s living situation works:

o   “How many faculty live on campus?” The number of faculty living on campus is a good sign of an institution’s commitment to creating a comprehensive educational environment. And the question is not how many staff members or “student life professionals” live on campus, but how many faculty: professors, lecturers, deans, and so on, who not only participate in residential life but who also teach biology, or philosophy, or mathematics, or art, or some other academic discipline. Are there faculty offices in the dormitories? If so, that is also a good sign.

o   “Does the university have ‘theme halls’?” Theme halls are dormitories or dormitory corridors that group together students who have a common interest or background. Although at first glance this might seem like a good idea, theme halls are really not in students’ best educational interest. If all the art students live together, or all the science students, or all the athletes, how will any of them be able to learn and grow intellectually from exposure to the full range of talents and interests that other students have? If the university you are visiting has theme halls you might ask instead, “Why does the university segregate students in this way instead of integrating them so they can benefit from living in a diverse environment?”

o   “How many juniors and seniors live on campus?” How many graduate students? Are they segregated from the other students, or is everyone mixed together? If the campus dormitories are populated almost entirely by freshmen and sophomores, that is a bad sign. It means either that the conditions are so poor that older students don’t want to stay, or that the university is only concerned with rental occupancy and is not trying to create a rich and diverse educational environment.

o   “Do faculty eat in the campus dining halls?” If you visit a dining hall, look around and see if there are university faculty and staff eating there as well as students. Is the dining hall a noisy student ghetto with a widescreen television blaring away, or is it a relaxing, home-like place where people can talk and get to know each other?

o   “How are the dormitories used during the summer?” Many universities rent their dormitory space during the summer to make money, and in itself this is not objectionable. But who are the tenants? If the space is rented to academic societies, professional organizations, local charities, and the like, that is a good sign. If it is rented to summer sports camps, that may be a bad sign. Years of personal observation have taught me that summer sports camps are often badly supervised and commit extensive vandalism. Their presence may mean that campus buildings are so poorly maintained that more responsible groups don’t want to stay in them. Do you want your son or daughter’s campus home to be routinely vandalized over the summer?

Looking at the CollegiateWay’s listings, you can see that he makes a distinction between the Residential Colleges of Universities and the small liberal arts and science colleges that offer a very similar experience, albeit on a more intimate experience.

Each of these institutions—along with many others around the world—has established, is planning, or is expanding an internal system of residential colleges: permanent, cross-sectional, faculty-led societies that provide the advantages of a small college in the environment of a large university.

For what may be the most comprehensive listing of Residential Colleges in the world, visit Collegiate Way:



Structures that Promote Caring, Part 1: Tutorials

Gallup and Purdue’s research clearly indicte that the professor’s relationship is central to not just the student’s experience at college, but also life later on. With only 27% of college graduates indicating that they had at least one prfoessor that cared about them, clearly this suggests colleges can do more…and students should demand more. 

While this might sound fundamentally an issue of personality, but I suspect there is more to it, more that a college can do to create structures of caring. The first thing that sprang to mind is the Oxbridge Tutorial System. Oxford details their tutorial system here:

A very indepth profile of the Oxford tutorial system here. Cambridge calls their approach supervision

  • This more personal tuition, organised by your College, is one of our greatest strengths and a key advantage of studying at Cambridge – most students find their supervisions the most rewarding and beneficial part of their course.
  • Supervisions are teaching sessions for one or two students or small groups.
  • They’re led by supervisors who are specialists in the subject being studied, and could be one of the country’s or world’s leading authorities.
  • As well as helping you develop independent learning skills, supervisions enable you to explore course material in much greater depth than lectures allow, to gain further insights into your subject, to clarify anything you’re not clear about, to discuss your own work and ideas, and receive regular feedback.
  • You go to different supervisors (often, though not always, from your College) for different parts of your course, in order to learn from specialists in particular areas of your subject.
  • Typically, you have one or two hour-long supervisions each week, although the frequency does vary from course to course.
  • What actually happens during supervisions also varies but generally you’re expected to do some preparatory work for each supervision (eg reading, write an essay, work through some problems), which you then discuss in the sessions.
  • You receive regular reports from your supervisors but aren’t formally assessed on this work, so you can take advantage of this opportunity to take risks with your own ideas, investigate new approaches, and discuss the set topic as well as other aspects of the course.


A few other UK universities (EG King’s Colleg and UCL) also utalize tutorials as an integral part of the the learning experience.

Across the pond, some US colleges also utalize the tutial approach. Sarah Lawrence College has long used the same approach to their education, but called it donning. Willaims embraced the tutorial system after years of exchange students coming back with such favoruable experience at Oxford. 


Some public universities have embraced it for their honors colleges:

GAP Year revisited

As you begin the colege application process begins, why not consider a GAP year. AS the Harvard Political Review explains

With many students, building deep, meaningful relationships with others [becomes] increasingly important. They remove the focus on themselves and shift to become more others-oriented.” College administrators anticipate that the development in social values will positively influence college communities and, moreover, civic life. According to O’Shea, “Students come back wanting to have a greater and more active sense of community, which is important for democratic life and public life generally.”

Abigail Falik is the founder and CEO of Global Citizen Year, an award-winning social venture that is building a pipeline of emerging leaders who have the global skills to thrive in college and 21st century careers. Under her leadership, Global Citizen Year has developed a model to train a diverse corps of high school graduates through apprenticeships across Africa, Latin America and Asia during a transformative bridge year before college. Today, Abigail leads the global team: setting organizational strategy, securing resources and building the cross-sector partnerships to ensure that someday, an immersive global “bridge year” becomes the norm, rather than the exception.


As you begin the colege application process begins, why not consider a GAP year. AS the Harvard Political Review explains

With many students, building deep, meaningful relationships with others [becomes] increasingly important. They remove the focus on themselves and shift to become more others-oriented.” College administrators anticipate that the development in social values will positively influence college communities and, moreover, civic life. According to O’Shea, “Students come back wanting to have a greater and more active sense of community, which is important for democratic life and public life generally.”

Abigail Falik is the founder and CEO of Global Citizen Year, an award-winning social venture that is building a pipeline of emerging leaders who have the global skills to thrive in college and 21st century careers. Under her leadership, Global Citizen Year has developed a model to train a diverse corps of high school graduates through apprenticeships across Africa, Latin America and Asia during a transformative bridge year before college. Today, Abigail leads the global team: setting organizational strategy, securing resources and building the cross-sector partnerships to ensure that someday, an immersive global “bridge year” becomes the norm, rather than the exception.


The Rise of China and Nigeria, the fall of Greece

Who goes to the UK to study and how has it changed over time?

This cool interactive visualization illustrates how China has risen to become THE dominant force in sending students in the UK, while Greece has fallen from top spot to the lower half. 

In 1996, China sent just 2660 students while Greece had 21,725 students come to the UK. 

By 2006, Greece had dropped to 11,305 students while China provided a whopping 80,225 to the higher education machine. 

In that same period, Nigeria went from 1835 to 15,470 students studying in the UK. 

The real story is how the numbers of international students more than doubled during this time. 

Insight into Majors in the UK

The British Council used to put out fact sheets covering many of the most popular majors. For some reason they have stopped posting them. Fortunetly, Archive.Org has kept a copy. Here they all are for your own use. 



Applied and Pure Sciences

Veterinary studies  (pdf, 205KB)

Build and Natural Environment

Architecture  (pdf, 110KB)
Interior design  (pdf, 200KB)

Computing, Mathematics and ICT

Computing  (pdf, 203KB)

Engineering and Technology

Engineering  (pdf, 183KB)

Health and Medicine

Medicine  (pdf, 189KB)
Complementary medicine  (pdf, 215KB)
Nursing and midwifery  (pdf, 204KB)
Dentistry  (pdf, 196KB)
Hair and beauty therapy  (pdf, 209KB)
Psychology and councelling  (pdf, 202KB)


Translating and interpreting  (pdf, 187KB)

Learning languages (pdf 102KB)



Law  (pdf, 193KB)

Management, business, finance and MAs

Accountancy  (pdf, 165KB)
Management  (pdf, 195KB)
MBA  (pdf, 165KB)

Social Sciences and Communications

Media studies  (pdf, 180KB)

Sport, Leisure, Hospitality and Tourism

Hospitality and tourism  (pdf, 198KB)
Sport and fitness  (pdf, 235KB)

Visual and Creative Arts

Art and design  (pdf, 98KB)
Fashion design  (pdf, 197KB)
Performing arts  (pdf, 222KB)


Teacher training (pdf, 173KB)
  Studying Education  (pdf, 177KB)

Starting your college search: The Major

Ready to start your college search? While there are lots of college search websites out there, most persume you already know what you want (location, size, major etc.). What if you have no idea? So there are several ways you can go. Let’s start with the Major. Firstly, some systems evaluate you by the major you plan to study (UK, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zeland, virtually all of Latin America and Europe. For these system, your high school preparation is essential. So let’s start with what UK universities recommend. The Russell Group publishes Informed Choices, a guide to high school preparation. For example:





Geography, History or science subjects can all be useful.

Here is another



If you do Chemistry, Biology and one from Mathematics or Physics you will 

keep all the medical schools open to you. If you do Chemistry and Biology 

you will keep open the vast majority. If you do Chemistry and one from 

Mathematics and Physics you will limit your range of choices much more.


Further Mathematics or a contrasting (non-science) subject, Computing/

Computer Science.


If UK or other direct entry destinations, they not only look at your preparation, but also your suitability. Whih major is right for you? check out UK Course Finder

Which university has a series of subject specifc guides:

 Here is what the guide for Psychology looks like:

If you’re thinking of studying a psychology degree at university, make sure your A-level line-up ticks admissions tutors’ boxes…

Psychology and other social sciences like sociology are popular degrees normally open to you with any A-levels. However, certain A-level subject choices will help prepare you for studying psychology at degree level, and may give you an edge over other applicants.

Essential A-levels (or equivalent)

  • A few courses ask for one or more from biology, chemistry, maths or physics.

Useful A-levels (or equivalent)

  • Biology.
  • Maths.
  • Psychology.
  • Sociology.

Other typical A-levels taken by current psychology students

  • English.
  • General studies.
  • History.

Take a look at individual psychology courses on Which? University to find out the most popular subjects students studied before attending.

Do note that many degrees will be open to you whichever A-levels you choose. Some courses will be happy with a subject just at AS-level while some courses may want the full A-level – something to check before you finalise your A-level choices in Year 12.

Similar subject areas…

  • Sociology.
  • Criminology.
  • Behavioural sciences.

Remember that even similar subjects may have slightly different A-level requirements to psychology, so if you want to keep your degree options open, be sure to check the entry requirements on specific courses.

As you will note, it uses A-levels, but you can easily subsitute AP or IB (in general HL) to ensure you have the right preparation. As you can see it is more generalized, so the student would be wise to visit each university webpage to look at what the specifically require. 

Another usueful resource is the Student room with their subject guides. Here is the one for Psychology

Most expensive countries for international students

The following is what HSBC concluded international students will pay to attend university in various countries.

Country Annual fees (USD) Annual cost of living (USD) Annual total (USD)
Australia 25,375 13,140 38,516
United States 25,226 10,479 35,705
United Kingdom 19,291 11,034 30,325
United Arab Emirates 21,371 6,004 27,375
Canada 18,474 7,537 26,011
Canada 18,474 7,537 26,011
Singapore 14,885 9,363 24,248
Hong Kong 13,182 9,261 22,443
Japan 6,522 12,642 19,164
Russia 3,131 6,310 9,441
China 3,983 4,783 8,766
Taiwan 3,270 4,987 8,257
Spain 1,002 6,004 7,006
Germany 635 5,650 6,285


Australia, surpsingly comes in at the highest, which is incredibly deceptive. Firstly, an Australian (and UK) degree, will typically take you three years while Canadian and US degress take four years. Secondly, HSBC uses tuition soures based on what Forbes list, but it is unclear if they are using the “ten largest” or the Ivy League or what? Since the ten largest US institutions are not considered the elite of the US. Furthermore, many students receive discounts in the form of financial aid at the top US colleges, but those are tied to a family’s ability to pay.  Since the typical ivy league education (Princeton) is $56,750, this puts a US education well ahead of Australia. Moreover, if we extraoplate over 4 years, this hits a whopping $227,000 whereas Australia comes in 115,548, or almost half. UK comes in at about 91K. Canada rounds out just over $104 K. 

Why Canada get’s two entries just adds to the sloppy presentation. 

And why would they leave out some stellar international destinations like the Netherlands, Switzerland or New Zealand?

Alma Mata Index: Ranking universities by where their CEOs went to college

Time’s Higher Education continues to feed the monstor coming up with a ranking of Global universities based on where they went to universities. Simple enough premise: 

1) Take the 500 companies from the global 500 

2) Identify where their CEOs went to universities–all actual degress awarded. So say you went to University of Victoria for Undegraduate and University of Califronia, Berkeley for Graduate school, both universities get one point. 

3) Factor in the total revenue of the alumni CEOs’ companies-the more money, the higher the ranking. 

And voila you have a list. You can read the whole story here.

As one observer (Mark Freebairn, a partner at top City headhunters Odgers Berndtson) notes, “For prospective employers there is comfort in the fact that someone has been selected ahead of a lot of other applicants. It means they are obviously bright. Passing that selection process is an endorsement for employers.” Or is it just laziness?

Seriously, the sample size was less than 500 people. While many CEOs have two or three degress, this will only bump the number up slightly. Actually, for the top 100 universities, the tall of degress comes to 390 awarded. I expect there is a long tale of 100 more universities with one CEO. Certainly a typical CEO would have an undergaduate degree and a graduate school degree–probably MBA or Law. Indeed, the top 10 male CEOs have a total of 15 degrees collectively, or 1.5 on average. Female CEOs have to work harder (or perhaps are just smarter) judging by the number of degress earned-19, or 1.9 each. 84 universities had fewer than 6 degress awarded. Not exactly a resounding endorsement for such power houses as Columbia  or Yale(6), Oxford (5), USC (4), Umich (3) and Brown (2). 

Focusing only on the top 12, the sample size continues to be rediculously low coming in with a total of 159 degress awarded or just 13 each. While there might be some statsitical significance in relation to running a fortune 500 company, it pales in comparrision as to how many graduated from these same universities and are NOT running a fortune 500 company. Take Harvard, ranked number 1, with 31 degrees awarded. One can only asume that the degrees awarded spread out over multiple years and both undergraduate and graduate school. (A side note: Of the top 20 male and female CEOs, not one did their undergraudate at Harvard). Let’s just pretend that all CEOs graduated at the same time. 31 came from Harvard. In 2009, Harvard awarded a total of 7234 degrees (this includes undergraduate and graduate degrees like law and MBAs). 31 of 7234 went on to be CEOs. This would make a rather sad ratio of one in every 233 degrees, IF they all came from the same year. But they did not. They were spread out, one can fairly assume over a 20 year period. So let us guestimate that Harvard awards at least 7000 degrees every year for 20 years. So less than .03 percent of Harvard Degree earners went on to run a global 500 Comapny. Not exactly a reason to write home now is it?

To be fair, Harvard alum go onto to do MANY great things:


Fairburn acknowledges that ““While people still look at where a candidate went to university, and the quality of degree and what they studied, by the time someone is 45 with 20 years’ experience, it is less relevant. But it has an impact in the first three to five years. By then the advantage is established and it is difficult for laggards to catch up.”

Malcolm Gladwell took to task this sort of faulty thinking by distinguishing Treatment effect vs Selection Effect:


Social scientists distinguish between what are known as treatment effects and selection effects. The Marine Corps, for instance, is largely a treatment-effect institution. It doesn’t have an enormous admissions office grading applicants along four separate dimensions of toughness and intelligence. It’s confident that the experience of undergoing Marine Corps basic training will turn you into a formidable soldier. A modelling agency, by contrast, is a selection-effect institution. You don’t become beautiful by signing up with an agency. You get signed up by an agency because you’re beautiful.

At the heart of the American obsession with the Ivy League is the belief that schools like Harvard provide the social and intellectual equivalent of Marine Corps basic training—that being taught by all those brilliant professors and meeting all those other motivated students and getting a degree with that powerful name on it will confer advantages that no local state university can provide. Fuelling the treatment-effect idea are studies showing that if you take two students with the same S.A.T. scores and grades, one of whom goes to a school like Harvard and one of whom goes to a less selective college, the Ivy Leaguer will make far more money ten or twenty years down the road.

Times Higher Education is suggesting that where you goes. But the research does not fully bear this out. Alan Krueger and Stacy Dale (1999) found that “students who attended more selective colleges do not earn more than other students who were accepted and rejected by comparable schools but attended less selective colleges.” Indeed a decade later, they revealed that it did not matter if you got into an elite school–if you had the numbers:“Even applying to a school, even if you get rejected, says a lot about you,” Mr. Krueger told me. He points out that the average SAT score at the most selective college students apply to turns out to be a better predictor of their earnings than the average SAT score at the college they attended. (The study measured a college’s selectivity by the average SAT score of admitted students as well as by a selectivity score that the publisher Barron’s gives to colleges.)”

A final word rom Kruger


My advice to students: Don’t believe that the only school worth attending is one that would not admit you. That you go to college is more important than where you go. Find a school whose academic strengths match your interests and that devotes resources to instruction in those fields. Recognize that your own motivation, ambition and talents will determine your success more than the college name on your diploma.

My advice to elite colleges: Recognize that the most disadvantaged students benefit most from your instruction. Set financial aid and admission policies accordingly.




And the top universities, according to Times Higher Education?


1 Harvard University US–31 degrees, 25 CEOs

2 University of Tokyo JAP–14 degrees, 13 CEOs 

3  Stanford University US 13 degrees, 11 CEOs

4  École Polytechnique FRA 12 degrees, 12 CEOs

5 HEC Paris FRA 10 degrees, 9 CEOs

6 ENA, École Nationale d’Administration FRA 9 degrees, 9 CEOs

7 University of Pennsylvania US 9 degrees, 8 CEOs

8 Massachusetts Institute of Technology US 9 degrees, 7 CEOs

9 Keio University JAP 8 degrees, 8 CEOs

10 Seoul National University KOR 8 degrees, 8 CEOs 

11 Cornell University US 8 degrees, 6 CEOs

12 INSEAD FRA 7 degrees, 7 CEOs

13 Tsinghua University CHN 7 degrees, 7 CEOs

14 University of Chicago US 7 degrees, 6 CEOs 

15 Northwestern University US 7 degrees, 6 CEOs