Before you decide on getting a foreign degree, you’ll need to make sure you are indeed passionate about your chosen ﬁeld of study. A future undergraduate student should ﬁrst determine which course to undertake based on interest and ambition. This can be easy if you already have an idea of what you’d like to do as a career.
However, if you are indecisive, ask yourself: what would you like to do for a living? Which subject do you pick up speedily? Are you interested in what you are good at? Do you want to specialise in one area or gain general knowledge of the ﬁeld? Speak to your parents for advice and, if need be, consult education counsellors at your school or local colleges. For instant information, check out online education portal easyuni.com (www.easyuni.com) which offers brilliant course recommendation tools based on students’ personalities and interests.
Only upon picking the course should you think about the university. Make sure you select an institution with a reputation for the subject or programme offered, rather than a popular ‘branded’ one your friends will be attending.
There are basically two types of universities: public and private. If you choose to attend a public university, you would be attending lectures at a university in the country, possibly even close to home. The other route is the private universities which give you the option of furthering your studies locally or abroad.
Whichever route you choose, you need to sort out how to fund your studies. Many education loans and scholarships are available but, of course, places and opportunities for these are very limited. Studying locally at a public university is the most affordable option but you may have set your sights on a foreign university renowned for the programme you intend to pursue.
Studying abroad is not going to be economical, even without factoring in the living expenses. So how do you ensure that your foreign degree is not just a dream? There are three options: obtain a foreign degree locally, complete a twinning programme, or even earn a degree online.
Option 1: Obtaining Foreign Degrees Locally
You can obtain a foreign degree by studying in a local off-shore campus (also known as branch campus or satellite campus) of the university.Curtin University, for example, has an overseas campus each in Singapore and Malaysia. Other UK, Australian and Chinese universities, such as Nottingham University and Xiamen University, have similar off-shore campuses to ease the ﬁ nancial burden of locals while providing opportunities for local students to better their studying experience.
Instead of being charged the fees of an international student in a foreign campus, you will be paying your fees as a local student in the local currency when you study in a branch campus. This will translate into a huge amount of savings than if you had to fork out three to ﬁ ve times more, depending on the currency exchange rate, if you were to study in the main campus. You will also save on the living expenses incurred when studying abroad.
You may doubt the quality of the education offered by the branch campuses. Rest assured that branch universities are as good as its main campus. Branch campuses share the same resources as the main campus abroad, so libraries are often well-stocked with internal and external textbooks. Well-equipped resource centres also ease students’ effort in ﬁ nding secondary resources for research, a must when writing a thesis, apart from providing a conducive environment for completing assignments and learning. As such, branch campuses are attentive to its students’ voices when it comes to improvising their campuses facilities and academic qualities.
Option 2: Twinning Programmes
Another way to obtain a foreign degree is by completing a twinning programme in a local institution. A local university partners with a foreign one to offer the latter’s programmes in the former’s campus. You may have seen programmes being advertised as “3+0” or “2+1”; these are twinning programmes. A “2+1” programme means the student has to complete his ﬁ rst two years of study locally before going overseas for his ﬁ nal year. This is akin to a student exchange programme. It allows students to reduce the cost of education while still having the opportunity to go abroad and experience studying and living there.
Another form of twinning programmes like the “3+0” programme doesn’t require students to go overseas. Students under this programme will get a foreign degree upon completion of the three years of study locally. They will have to register with the local institution as well as the partner university overseas, and undergo the same assessment methods locally as it would have been done at the twin university abroad. This twinning programme is similar to studying in a branch campus; the difference is the administrator of the programme. Both the branch campus and twinning programme options allow students to obtain a foreign degree at a fraction of the cost of studying overseas. With these options, more students are able to pursue the course at their university of choice with lower investments.
Option 3: Online Degree/Distance Learning
The advent of online technology means students can obtain their degrees in a virtual learning environment. Online distance learning courses and degrees can be cost-effective, convenient and ﬂexible alternatives to campus-based programmes, regardless of one’s geographical location or personal commitments.
Best of all, if you study an online degree programme from top-ranked universities, you can be assured that the online courses are also accredited by a national accrediting body and provide a high level of excellence in teaching and learning experiences. You will also have access to all the support and facilities you would expect to receive on a brick- and-mortar campus. An online course enables you to listen to and watch online lectures and take part in live question-and- answer sessions over the Internet. However, self- discipline is crucial if you take up this option.
You would already have saved a substantial amount of money by obtaining a foreign degree through the methods described above. But you can also apply for education loans. Your tertiary education could even be free if you’re offered a scholarship throughout the duration of your studies. Many scholarships are available to deserving students pursuing a foreign degree, and there are many scholarships available in many countries. It is a matter of ﬁnding them.
- Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan (CSFP)
The CSFP is an international education programme in which Commonwealth governments offer scholarships to citizens of other Commonwealth countries. There are seven types of scholarships: PhD research, Master’s studies, Shared Scholarships with UK universities for Master’s students, Academic Fellowships, Split-Side Scholarships that allows foreign students to spend a year in the UK, Professional Fellowships for mid-career professionals, and Distance Learning Scholarships for UK Master’s programmes. Fields of study include engineering, science, agriculture, humanities, social sciences, medicine and dentistry.
- Fulbright Programme
The Fulbright Programme was established to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills.” It is one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world, offering students from 155 nations an opportunity to further their studies in the US in ﬁ elds such agricultural sciences, American studies, business administration, economics, education, energy, international relations, journalism, management and leadership development, media and communications, sustainable development and climate change. The programme offers grants to students, scholars, teachers and professionals, with the Fulbright Foreign Student Programme being the most applicable for students who want to obtain a foreign degree.