One of the greatest things about going to university is that you get the chance to meet people whose paths you might never otherwise have crossed: kindred spirits from all over the world who will change and shape the way you think about life, the universe and everything.
This can be especially true when you find yourself studying, socializing and even living with students who have come from different countries and cultures. When I was at university, the courage of these students used to amaze me, particularly those who came from far away, and for whom English was a second language. I could not imagine leaving everything familiar behind and committing to such a new and different experience. Despite this, the presence of international students at a UK university didn’t surprise me: it seemed natural to me that students would want to study here, the centre of my universe.
What’s more, a good deal of research suggests that the global centre of education is shifting. I found myself wondering whether it might soon be as usual to be a British student in, say, China as it is now to be a Chinese student in the UK. What draws international students to the UK? And what draws British students elsewhere? And why might that elsewhere increasingly be in Asia?
The attractions of the UK as a place to gain a university education are manifold. Here are a few examples:
Among the motives for coming to the UK expressed in the Guardian’s Meet the global student series were the international environment, the friendly dynamic between students and teachers, the range of non-academic societies, the prospect of getting a better job and the wish to study in the land of Adam Smith!
In conclusion, whether your place of pilgrimage is Anne Hathaway’s cottage, centre court at Wimbledon, a highlands distillery, Snowdonia National Park or tea at Claridge’s, the UK has a lot to offer… but so do other places. If the future of higher education is international, it is worth considering why a British student might emulate their global counterparts and look further afield when working on university applications.
Hong Kong is one of the most dynamic cities on earth: historically and politically, Hong Kong occupies a unique position as a place where west meets east and old meets new. It’s a city of skyscrapers, street markets, Daoist temples and shopping centres, and a group of stunningly beautiful islands, hospitable to everyone from beach lovers or rock climbers. It is a global centre of business and culture, a gateway to experiencing mainland China and the Pacific. And I haven’t even mentioned the food yet.
Moreover, in 2014, the Economist rated Hong Kong as one of the five most important education hubs in the world. It is not hard to see why:
Combined with the thrilling location and proximity to the rest of Asia, Hong Kong has to be one of the most exciting education destinations in the world.
As things stand, students from Asia are among the most intrepid in the world, and their presence benefits British universities in countless ways. In contrast, British students are among the least mobile in the world. Yet they have the potential to benefit foreign schools, just as international students benefit ours.
And perhaps change is already on the way. Perhaps this is set to change. With governments in Asia bolstering funding and research opportunities at their own schools, it seems that the pull to study abroad might increasingly be multidirectional. Who knows? Maybe one of your students might one day be guiding some local classmates through the streets of Hong Kong, taking them to the obscure hole-in-the-wall where they can enjoy the most authentic steak and kidney pudding in the city.
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