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British universities: career choice landmark (май 2015)

Статья "Британские университеты: ориентир в выборе профессии" опубликована на сайте ТАСС 21 мая 2015 г.
Перевод статьи на английский язык сделан сотрудниками "Альбиона".

Автор: Елена Коптелова

In his recent interview with TASS Vice-rector of the MSU Academician Alexey Khokhlov stated, that today’s Russian pupils do not give a deep thought to the demand for their future profession. Moreover, they enter higher education unprepared. Even the most prestigious universities, MSU is one of the most obvious examples, are forced to admit knowledge gaps in key subjects among enrollees and complain that the level of the applicants leaves much to be desired.
On request (initiative) of “Albion” company journalist Elena Koptelova talked to the representatives of three leading British universities, trying to understand how matters stand with applicants in Britain. What is the level of applicants? What are the priorities in career choice for young people, including overseas students? Does the problem of lack or redundancy of any specialists exist?
Probably the major difference between British and a Russian applicants is that when choosing the profession British put their personal aptness and interests first, while the teachers help them to understand, in what field they can fulfill himself successfully and succeed. Undoubtedly, labor market in the UK differs from Russian labor market. British labor market is more multi-faced and balanced. Every profession is important. Certainly, in such conditions it is easier and more correct to do what you want to and to earn decent money.
British university may have a name, history, distinguished Professors, exceptional technical facilities and infrastructure, unique joint laboratories with Grands of World science and technique- all these features are very attractive per se. The value of the university is increases greatly if it trains the specialists, who are competitive and in demand in labor market.
There is a hope that the career choice landmarks will start to undergo changes in our country too. It becomes more apparent that employers in Russia are in demand for top-class specialists in engineering (including, due to recent events, airspace construction, microelectronics, instrument engineering), material production, technologies, while it is time to think about retraining for numerous lawyers, economists and managers. Nevertheless, like a 10 years ago, today the enrollment competition in humanities is much more intense than in faculties of sciences. Meanwhile, in England one of the most popular faculties is the faculty of engineering (except the obvious leader- faculty of medicine, which is justified by the lack of human resources in medicine in the country). In some universities the enrollment competition in this faculty is up to 10 persons per place.
Interestingly, engineering becomes more popular among Russian students who come to study in the UK. According to our interviewed experts, today Russian students are more likely to choose engineering, exact science; biomedicine, information technology, international relations and science come forward, while in the past economics, finance and law were dominating. There is a group of students who study sciences that are not “market-driven”- philosophy, history, arts. They believe that it is important to study what you like and passionate about, and that a high-qualified specialist will find a job.
There is a chance that in a short time this tendency will appear among the applicants of Russian universities, and today’s “trendy” professions will be substituted by the currently demanding professions in labor market. Thus, they are advantageous for the students.
Mike Nicholson, Director of Student Recruitment & Admissions at University of Bath (the UK), ranked fourth in the Guardian's league table 2015.
«Early professional specialization is the peculiarity of British education system. (It is another issue, whether it is good or bad, the article from the previous publication made a start of the discussion, the continuation of the discourse will be in the next interviews,- “Albion” Company note). A person, applying to a university, should definitely realise what he or she wants to do in the future. The applicant should hit the ground running: bachelor programs in our country last only three years, in contrast to most of the countries.
Every year we receive more than 20 thousand applications for 3 thousand places, for the most popular faculties, for example, engineering, the competition is nine persons per place. Naturally, we choose the best candidates, in accordance with the grades they got for the profession-oriented subjects for their A-level final school exams. Thus, an engineering faculty applicant is required to have the highest grades and, first and foremost, excellent knowledge of physics and mathematics. Overseas applicants have to meet an additional criterion, which is the good command of English. Well, it might be the case that in the near future excellent A-level grades (and its equivalent for an international applicant) will not be enough, just because the number of the recipients of such high grades grows, not least because of ambitious and able-minded overseas applicants who come to study in the UK. Even today some British universities introduce interviews and entrance examinations in the major subjects. University of Bath is especially strong in engineering specialties. We have the high-ranked reputation in such areas as machinery, architecture and construction, business and economics. These fields are the most popular among students, not least because of the employability for these specialties is almost 100 %.
Today it is not enough to give the student knowledge and diploma. To be competitive, a modern university should prepare a student for the real life, and to teach him or her with the skills that are valued by employers, sometimes even more than a diploma. For instance, an engineer with managerial and leadership skills has the spectrum of employment opportunities, which is much broader. We have a special department, which is in charge for the development of crucial skills and the employability of students. In fact, this is a part of our educational syllabus. As a result, 83, 4% of our alumni find a job within half a year after graduation, while the majority of them find a job during their studies. Only Imperial-college and Cambridge have better employment rates».
James Smith, Vice Principal International at the University of Edinburgh(Schotland), ranked 17th in the World, 5th in the UK according the World in QS Rankings2014/2015.

«Right from its establishment in 1583 the University of Edinburgh has been placing its bets on international cooperation. The best European universities, in particular, Leiden University and Collège de France were taken as models, and the university itself stood as an example for the American University of Pennsylvania and Canadian McGill University. In the middle of the 19th century it was the first university to admit a Chinese student. We have close cooperation with Russia. Its start was set by Robert Erskine, the alumnae of the University of Edinburgh, leib – medic of Peter I, who played a significant role in the establishment and the development of Russian medicine. The founder of academic interchange between Scotland and Russia was Duchess Catherine Dashkova, and her son, Pavel, became the first Russian student of the University of Edinburgh.
Today we are the first in the UK in the number of international students- they make almost half of all the students. Scotland is a small country, and the flow of overseas students is essential for the university’s development and flourish. We are ready to invest in capable international students and award them scholarships. We suppose that it will be good for everyone, including the university.
There are not many Russian students at our university, just over 100, we would like to have them more at the university. I have not noticed anyone to have difficulties with their studies. Yes, initially they have to make considerable effort, in order to level their command of English. However, as for basic knowledge, according our experience, Russian students come to the university well-prepared; they are all result-oriented. I do not know whether it is the feature of all Russians or we just receive so highly-motivated students. I would not say that the current political and economic events have somehow negatively influenced our cooperation with Russia. We want Russia students to grow in number in our university, so that we should introduce ourselves more actively in Russia, tell about our strengths and the specialties thanks to which the university stands as second-to-none.
These are, first of all, medicine, social sciences, international politics and international relations, new sciences and technologies. The current crisis closed many employment opportunities for the economists, finanсiers, managers, but the employee with, on the one hand, classical, traditional specialties, and, on the other hand, researchers, working in the cross-sectoral fields, in my opinion, will be always in demand. We aim at “pushing” our students into such cross-sectoral fields. It is good that the system of Scottish system of higher education allows for this. Medicine and history, engineering and culturology, construction and arts-these are only some of our cross-sectoral courses, which are gaining popularity.
We also promote learning several foreign languages, work and study abroad, also including such months-long practice in the academic curriculum of our students. The more unique skills our alumnae has, the better. Labor market in recent years has changed dramatically. A diploma, even a prestigious one, is not enough».
Jake William Duffin, Head of International Office at Queen Mary University (the UK) « We are justifiably proud of our medicine and dentistry faculty- one of the oldest and the most prestigious in the UK. And till now these have been the fields in which our university has been rated at the top in the British rankings. Law, economics and finance are also up to the mark. Our university is in the UK top-20 according scientific researches.
Undoubtedly, that achievement of a university is not only its scientists’ merit, but its students’ merit as well. Selectivity is the main virtue of the British system of higher education: the best universities choose the best students, and this allows for constant progress and high academic results.
Interchange is in the basis of the famous selective system of British education: what a student can give to a university matters as much as what a university can give to a student. That is why, when entering a university, an applicant should clearly realise as well as clearly explain, in particular, in his or her motivation letter, why he or she wants to study this very specialty in this very university and how he or she can be of help to department.
The level of the applicants’ qualification is constantly growing from year to year, and when several applicants have equal A-level grades, these are the motivational letter and the interview that acquire utmost significance for the candidates’ selection.
This is the current tendency: regardless the growth of the tuition fee, the number of the candidates has not decreased. British schools annually perform new records on A-level exams. It might be explained by several aspects. First, some private schools started to hold themselves out as “examination plants”, which aim is to get the best results possible on final exams by all means and to get the highest place possible in the ranks. Second, ambitious overseas students, coming to study in the sixth form specially to prepare for entering a university, have grown in number. As a result the competitiveness is growing, and, also standard enrollment requirements in British universities have not changed, they are still based on A-level results, the best universities are forced to introduce some extra selection criteria. (For example, because of the grades’ “inflation”, British universities have recently been forced to acknowledge the highest grade A* as an official for entrance procedures- “Albion” Company note.)
I will repeat myself: British universities as well as students gain from the growing competitiveness. A university has to invest in the infrastructure development, new technologies, invite the best professors, while students, in their turn, and become more prepared and motivated, communicating with prominent scientists and successful specialists. There is no such thing as “force a student to study” in British universities. Everyone makes his own choice and undertakes responsibility for it. Such framework is being established as early as at school, along with the skill of critical thinking, information search and learning material acquisition. I do not think, that the pupils of British schools and universities are more “correct”, they are the same as everyone else, maybe, just more independent. »

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