Higher education: Has the US got it right?

By Gregory Taylor

For most university students the next few years will be the best years of their lives, but although the university experience is life changing, I feel it does not prepare a student for the outside world of work. Far too often you hear employers moaning about university graduates not having the right skills for the work place and graduates not having good work ethics. So how do you solve a problem like this? Well, we should look no further than the Americans for this answer.

For me the American system offers the best style of higher education. Although American students have a good time and enjoy themselves, there is also high amount of time spent on outside interests and undertaking internships. The other major difference is that students in American universities learn about a range of different areas. In the first year most Americans will take classes that range from sciences to modern language, this gives the average American student a wide range of different skills outside their subject, so a student might be studying to do a history degree, but will also have taken classes in English, Politics and the Sciences during their first year.

Not only do American students have a range of different skills but they also seem to be much more focused on their careers long-term, so you will see many American students undertaking internships during the summer months. Of course this is not something which is unheard of in the UK, but having been through the process, I found I had to do much of the research into doing this on my own. Also American students at university study for four years and not the three years we do in the UK, and although it may not seem like much of a difference, I do think that the extra year gives you bit more time and life experience, and crucially, maturity.

Of course the other major difference between the UK and US has to be in the cost of doing a degree, although UK students pay up £10,000 a year, in America it can be up to $40,000 a year and more, but I would say you get what you pay for. The other thing to take into account is that many Americans will not have to pay the full amount and some won’t even have to pay anything as the amount you pay for fees is based on your family income.

Even sports in the American Universities outclass the British system. Yes we have many fine universities which have some very good sports clubs like Durham, Loughborough and Bristol, but although things have got better for sports clubs at university the UK is still a long way behind the Americans. Sport at American is taken as seriously as studying. The sports equipment and facilities in an American university are amongst the best in the world; the other thing is the funding for sports scholarships, which many American universities offer students and the funding that the sports clubs in America receive is top class as well, which means that many students who attend university on a sport scholarship will most likely go on to play at a very high level, either for a major sports club or for their country. UK universities are starting to bring in sport scholarships but it’s still not on the level that many American Universities offer.

I think the British system of university education does a very good job and it’s worked very well up to now, but as we move into the 21st century we are going to find ourselves competing with other nations who are outflanking us on the education front. If the UK is going to stay ahead of the global race then its needs to seriously look at its higher education and how it’s funded, whether this is putting up fees or changing the system, I do feel that the British higher education system does need to be looked at closely. I think if the system was to be changed it should follow the American system as it would best prepare student for the world of work.

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