Episode 126: Global HE Options - Different Systems, Different Priorities

Episode 126: Global HE Options - Different Systems, Different Priorities

Date of Publication/发布日期
January 19, 2024
Files & media
Volume 4 2023-2024

According to the news and data published, as of last year, there were about 300,000 Chinese international students studying in the states. Of that number, more than one third, approximately 109,500, were undergraduate. Per multiple sources, Chinese students have remained the largest group of foreign students in US.

On the other hand, although the exact data of undergraduate Chinese international student in UK and Canada is not specified, both countries have been popular destinations for Chinese international students pursuing higher education. The total number of Chinese international students in the UK exceeded 150,000 during 2021/22 academic year. In Canada, Chinese students also represent a significant proportion of the international student population, with over 100,000 Chinese students studying in the country in 2022.

Evidently, senior students are likely to apply universities globally in addition to the states. In terms of admission requirement, undergraduate program duration, program structure, teaching and assessment methods, this article will compare and contrast the differences among the three countries so students can better identify the best education system that fosters and facilitates their growth.

1. Admission Requirements:

US: In the US, admission to undergraduate programs typically requires:

  • A transcript that includes courses that student took in freshmen, sophomore, and junior year and the letter grade earned respectively.
  • SAT or ACT scores are often required; given the COVID pandemic, many research universities and liberal arts colleges have gone test optional as well.
  • TOEFL/IELTS/Duolingo, to demonstrate English language proficiency, as an English-immersion American high school that BIPH is, certain colleges may choose to waive such requirement.
  • Letters of recommendation from college counselor and most likely two subject teachers. Additional recommendation may be taken depends on the specific school requirement.
  • An activity list comprised of up to 10 extracurricular activities, along with 5 honors and/or awards.
  • A personal statement of no more than 650 words, possibly some supplement essays required by a particular school, and sometimes an invited interview and/or video essay that varies from 30 second to 3 minutes in length.

It is worth mentioning that US colleges apply “holistic review”, meaning more than grades and standardized scores, the personal statement is of vital importance for its uniqueness tells one student apart from the other candidates.

UK: In the UK, admission to undergraduate programs primarily relies on academic qualifications.

  • Students usually need to meet specific A-level requirements or equivalent qualifications (in the context of BIPH, enough number of AP exams with 4s and/or 5s achieved) that their chosen course (major) demands. If the student fails to meet the AP requirement, a fair SAT score may also help.
  • IELTS is recommend to UK applicants, certain schools may require a minimum band score as well.
  • A personal statement not exceeding 4,000 characters or 37 lines that primarily discusses the applicant’s academic background.
  • A recommendation letter by a subject teacher.
  • Some universities may also require interviews or additional tests, such as the UKCAT or BMAT for medical programs.

Compare with US college applications, UK is more straightforward as each university lists the entry requirement for its courses. Nevertheless, Oxbridge applicants are often challenged academically during the interview.

Canada: In Canada, admission requirements vary across universities and programs. Generally, students need a high school diploma or equivalent qualification. Some programs may have additional requirements like prerequisite courses, submission of portfolios, or interviews. Among the three, Canadian university applications might be the simplest, quite a number of school applications take no more than filling the application form, though some of them may still require short writing responses.

2. Program Duration & Structure:

  • US: Undergraduate programs in the US typically last for four years, with some exceptions such as accelerated programs, which may allow completion in three years. Overall, US universities emphasize a more flexible and broader approach (aka GE, General Education), offering a variety of courses ranging different subjects. Students are encouraged to explore classes that are vastly different than their major during the first two years, then concentrate on major-related courses during the latter two years.
  • UK: In the UK, undergraduate programs usually span three years, expect in Scotland, most undergraduate degrees take four years (e.g.: University of Edinburgh/University of Glasgow/University of St. Andrews). Undergraduate programs in the UK are more focused on the chosen discipline from the beginning. Students often have a specific course of study and fewer general education requirements.
  • Canada: In Canada, most undergraduate programs have a duration of four years, with some professional programs like engineering or architecture extending to five years. Likewise, general education is also a part of the undergraduate program; specific mix of general education and major-related courses can vary between universities and programs. Some universities may have a more rigid structure where students are required to complete a set number of general education courses, while others may offer more flexibility, allowing students to choose from a range of general education courses based on their interests or program requirements. Some programs, particularly in the sciences, have specific core course requirements.

3. Grading Systems:

  • US: The US uses a letter grading system, typically on a scale of A (excellent) to F (fail). Grade point averages (GPAs) are commonly used to assess academic performance.
  • UK: In the UK, undergraduate programs use the class system for grading, ranging from first-class (highest) to third-class (lowest). Grades are often based on exams and coursework.
  • Canada: Canadian universities use various grading scales, but the most common is a percentage-based system where an average of 60% to 69% is considered a pass.

4. Teaching and Assessment Methods:

  • US: Undergraduate programs in the US often involve a combination of lectures, discussions, and interactive activities. Particularly for liberal arts colleges, many smaller seminars or workshops are more common. Evaluation methods include exams, papers, projects, and class participation.
  • UK: Teaching methods in the UK heavily focus on lectures; occasionally, tutorials and seminars, too. Assessment methods vary but typically the final exam plays the big role.
  • Canada: Canadian universities employ a range of teaching methods, including lectures, labs, and discussions. Assessment methods may include exams, assignments, group projects, and presentations.