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Selecting a graduate school overseas

QS Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd, London
Tony Martin, co-editor of QS Top Grad School Guide and director of QS World Grad School Tour offers would-be international graduate students some practical advice about finding the right masters or PhD program.
?If I select a graduate school, will it select me?? ? that?s the first question in most people?s minds when they?ve decided they want to advance their education with a Masters or a PhD. Indeed, how to match a candidate?s aspirations with those of an institution is the subject of considerable debate worthy of a PhD in itself.Choosing a graduate program at home can be tough enough. Choosing one overseas opens a whole new dimension as the options are immeasurable. And these are getting greater all the time as the popularity of advanced study increases throughout the world.

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So where do you start? First perhaps, by putting the meaning of the words ?graduate school? into an international perspective, as it is different from one country to another. ?Gradschool? is US jargon for ?graduate school? and is common parlance that has extended to countries where the USA has had a strong influence on the education system. Many US universities are very large and the individual graduate schools are physically and administratively autonomous. They are usually subject specific and the major schools even have a different name to that of the main university, such as the Heinz School of Public Policy of Carnegie Mellon University, or Tufts University?s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. They are usually named after a major benefactor.In the UK, Australia and other non-North American English-speaking countries, graduate schools are usually integrated within the university and are more of a notional entity. For example, this is how University College London describes its graduate school: ?The UCL Graduate School is important in providing both intellectual and social contact between graduates of different disciplines and from different backgrounds and countries. The Graduate School is here to help make rewarding contacts outside the close confines of the laboratory or the library, whether within UCL or outside in the wider world.?The exception to this rule is the business schools, whether graduate only or offering study at all levels, which world-wide tend to enjoy considerable ? even complete ? autonomy from their parent university. Erasmus University in the Netherlands has its Rotterdam School of Management, Oxford University has the Saïd School of Business, named after its founder. This pattern may be found in most countries as business schools tend to be the most dynamic and best-resourced parts of the universities.In non-English-speaking countries graduate schools on the US model are being used more and more as universities increasingly offer Masters courses taught in English. Ruhr-Universität Bochum, early pioneer of Masters degrees in Germany, has a number of ?Graduierten-kollegs? for its German language postgraduate programs and three ?Graduate Schools? for its programs taught in English. This trend is accelerating fast, not only in Europe, where the Bologna process is being implemented rapidly, but also in Asian countries where universities are also internationalising. Korea University?s website lists no less than seventeen graduate schools, each with its own subject speciality.Understanding this structure is an important step in making your selection because you need to decide whether you wish to study in an environment of major specialisation, or whether you prefer the wider context of a ?broad church? university where you will rub shoulders with students of many disciplines.Once clear on this point, the next task is not so much to choose the school or university, but to choose the course that is best for you. If you are a typical graduate looking for advanced study, you will be driven by enthusiasm for your chosen subject and, unless you have overriding personal reasons for selecting a study location, you will choose the course first, then worry about where you study it, how competitive it is to get admitted, how you are going to pay for it ? and what the weather is going to be like!So how do you find a course to suit you? A global Google search on ?masters in aeronautical engineering? gives 17,000 results, a search on ?masters in business administration gives over a million. Let?s take a rain-check! Websites such as topgraduate.com give you good advice on graduate school selection and links to important Masters and PhD providers worldwide. Dedicated course search directories, such as gradschools.com, studylink.com, enable you to identify the courses you are searching for. If you have a particular country in mind, go to the site of the British Council, IDP Education Australia, EduFrance and so on and to the sites of individual universities and schools, which are usually comprehensive in both listings and describing course contents and may offer an application facility.Once you have narrowed down your search to a number of possible courses, start asking some serious questions. How successful is the course in terms of its popularity? How is it taught? - by tutorial? by lecture? How much contact is there with the teachers? Do employers recognise the qualification? How easily do its graduates find the job of their choice? How motivated are your fellow students likely to be? From what countries do they come? Very important, what is the language of instruction ? and how well do the teachers speak it? Finally, of course, how much will it cost for tuition fees and living costs?All courses have admissions tutors whose job it is to answer such questions. Track that person down by email or by phone and demand his or her attention. After all, you are the customer who ? for most overseas courses, anyway - will be paying many thousands of dollars, euros or pounds to that institution. Be as discerning as you would be buying a property or a car.A recent survey of US graduate school admissions personnel showed that, while all of them relied on the internet for the dissemination of information about their course, 90% considered recruitment fairs to be essential for finding and selecting suitable applicants.Indeed, a very good way for you to ?interview? admissions tutors is by attending a Masters and PhD fair such as those presented on the QS World Grad School Tour, or an MBA fair on the QS World MBA Tour. (Go to www.qsnetwork.com for details.) These fairs visit many cities on four continents and are different from most international education fairs insofar as the universities and schools participating concentrate entirely on graduate study. This means that their representatives are focused on the area of interest to you and you are not competing with teenagers and their parents looking for undergraduate study, as tends to be the case in general education fairs. Whether you choose a graduate school or it chooses you will depend on your strengths and aspirations and the competitiveness of the school. Ideally, you will create a shortlist that includes programs at the higher level of your reach and lower, but sound, institutions that should accept you if you cannot get admitted to your first choices.
Dieser Artikel ist erschienen am 01.10.2004