Tag Archives: university

The future is in your hands!!

A message from Miss Hunter

Dear all Year 11 and 12 Students

As we progress towards the end of the year I look forward to seeing you all at our Futures Week next week in my new role as Head of Careers and University Counselling.  Attend all sessions possible to get the most out of the week and enjoy the experiences that are on offer to you. Whether you are planning on going to University in the UAE, UK or elsewhere in the world our university trips will not only let you see what is on offer to you in the UAE but allow you to experience what University is like.  There will also be numerous opportunities for you to listen to and ask questions to our guest speakers who represent a variety of Businesses in the UAE who will be sharing not only what their job involves but the road they took to get there.

Read more on our speaker events or about our whole programme.

This week is vital preparation for next year and your understanding of what choices are available to you.  I welcome your questions and feedback next week. Or email me in advance with any queries!

Year 8 work shadowing

All year 8 students will be participating in our “Work shadowing” for three days (Sunday 7th to Tuesday 9th December inclusive.) During these days they will be going to work with either parent, or with another trusted adult if their parent approves (there will be no lessons or school provision and all students will be expected to participate.) The progamme is run by Mr. Wright, the head of year 8. If you missed Mr. Wright’s original letter, you can find a copy on the Work shadowing page. Future relevant materials will be posted here too including, shortly, some suggestions for parents as to how to make the experience most beneficial to your son / daughter.

Work shadowing is the new first step in our programme of enabling students to understand, prepare for and access the world of work. It has become increasingly important to have a clear idea about work routes, for the following reasons:

  • the job market is far more competitive than it once was, including for those who have degrees and “higher level” skills sets
  • universities are more expensive than ever and likely to rise in cost further still, so a change of mind becomes very costly
  • it is becoming the norm / minimum requirement to have work experience as soon as possible (in some industries, to avoid interning for free for years after graduating)

So we want students to have a multi-stage experience of the world of work, which looks like this:

  1. Year 8: three-day Work shadowing with a parent to give a brief initial introduction.
  2. Year 10: two-week intensive Work experience with one or (usually) two different companies.
  3. Year 12/13: extended internships competitively available (programme to be launched soon) for a handful of students, part-time and lasting several weeks.

Taken together, this “ladder” gives students an excellent and ever-deeper understanding of work in context, and should make university and future career choices better-informed.

Keep an eye on the Work shadowing page for more details!

Secrets of career success and the many-routes argument

Students (and parents and teachers!) are forever looking for the secret of success in careers planning – the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket, whether it’s to a particular institution, the highest salary, the securest job etc. Of course there’s no single right answer, but following this blog’s links to new developments and keeping an open mind about as many routes as possible to your career future are probably the best bet-hedging you can do – besides, of course, working fanatically in all your subjects! But here’s an interesting variety of takes of what the root to success is…

First, there’s the perennial fascination of Oxbridge interviews, resplendent with urban myths about lunatic questions and daringly simplistic answers. Oxford today marked the admissions deadline by releasing a list of some typical interview questions, designed to provoke and avoid curriculum knowledge or training. (In fact they’re easy to train people for and any of our candidates who get an interview invite will get some training.) The whole thing is a PR stunt actually, and I pity the school that trains candidates using this list – they’ll not use any of these again. The success route through this is intelligent logical analysis, not memorising this list.

The financial crash has robbed a generation of graduates of immediate entry to the market. Although these jobs seem to be opening up now, it looks like a crash on a motorway being cleared – it might take some time before the backlog dies down (years in terms of graduate oversupply.) In the meanwhile many have continued on the conveyor to postgraduate (Masters) degrees. Will these enhance your prospects against those with just a Batchelors degree? Especially when the extra cost is considered? Maybe, and choose carefully. An alternative argument to consider is whether school leavers at 18 might be better going to economic growth area industries rather than expensive degrees in subjects which might not be of much job market value. I can think of a brilliant 26 year-old former student of mine with a degree from a top university, working in a high-tech industry in London, on only £26k a year; whereas, from the same school, I know a 20 year-old who went straight into estate agency and is now an assistant branch manager on £30+k before his compatriots have left uni; and another school leaver at 18, earning upwards of £70k a year in a hands-on job in the film industry. It’s not all about a degree, necessarily.

Meanwhile, thinking of many routes to things, here’s an interesting map from the Guardian of international degrees – who goes where from which countries. Have a play around; you might be surprised by some of the data.

And lastly, for a chuckle, check out these PR disasters by universities. You wouldn’t want to go to an institution this inept at marketing itself, surely. Although maybe the boys are now considering Bedfordshire after this.

On a serious school-related note, A-level options are coming up for year 11… start deciding!

University application news (Sept 2014 for 2015)

A handful of pieces from the Guardian and more from the Telegraph here, all selected as relating to choosing universities.

First there’s the news in the recently-released QS rankings (one of the three major world university ranking systems, and a very credible list) that there are four British universities in the top ten. This is no surprise – the top British unis have long punched above their weight and are very research-focused, which pushes them up the rankings. (Note that the other two ranking systems, the THE400 and the Shanghai, use different criteria, and produce different rankings. Not only should you read about and cross-reference all three, but be aware that subject-specific rankings are generally more important than overall rankings.) Note that traditional informal weighting by employers doesn’t exactly follow this list either.

If you just want UK universities, the Guardian’s 2015 table is the best guide, in my view. And here’s an interesting article about the most gay-friendly universities. Whilst only a minority of candidates are gay, this is an interesting ranking because it might say something more general about universities’ inclusiveness, the social liberalism of the environment, and / or the general level of care for student welfare issues – so it’s worth asking questions like this. If nothing else, remember that far more than just a dry academic ranking ought to be in your mind while choosing.

One thing uncaptured by these tables is the extent to which the “top” universities are so because of their academic output, and they are not necessarily at all top in terms of interest in or attention to their normal undergraduate students: see this Telegraph article on how students come second. They’re businesses first and foremost, basically. And the removal of the cap on recruitment numbers makes some people think there will be a surge in EU student numbers (though I tire of pointing out to British xenophobes that UK students are also from the EU.) I don’t think this panic is fair, actually: who’d leave Holland or Germany, with much lower fees, for the privilege of working a warehouse morning and barwork evening job in London just to pay the higher fees and cost of living? I’m not sure British universities have an edge over continental ones that would cause me to come that way across the Channel. In fact if I were going to uni now and the course was available at a decent Dutch university, taught in English (as many are) I wouldn’t dream of picking a UK option over that. (Note also that the Guardian reports the end of the cap having caused chaos in the university sector. As usual, free markets screw up.)

Perhaps if you want a British university education, the secret is not necessarily the UK: many British universities increasingly run parallel campuses in other continents (including here in the UAE). You would probably need a specific cultural reason to want to go to these, but it serves to remind that the university sector is increasingly international (and many EU and US degrees now include an integral  year abroad, and Masters degrees are now often taken in another country.) The competition you will face in the job market is increasingly international (and ever-more challenging): so now even Chinese students are coming to study in US and other western schools (though probably to access the university sector: US universities are well-ranked in world terms, their schools less so.)

Finally, here’s the Telegraph’s pretty useful “prepare for university application” page. No rocket science here but solid help which is always worth checking.

Update: forthcoming careers events

There are a number of forthcoming visitors to the UAE who are either holding a university event or will be available to offer private university application support (at a price). Details:

  • St. Andrews is a good UK university. They will be holding an open event at JESS in Arabian Ranches, from 6.30pm on Wed 24th Sept, about their courses and entry requirements (and to some extent the wider Scottish system.)
  • Inner Universe are a private firm hosting Australian universities and Murdoch, Newcastle and RMIT will be holding events respectively on Thur 18th 2pm, Fri 19th 3pm, Sat 20th 10am. Email them to register if interested. (Their marketing didn’t say where.)
  • Gyanberry are agents for Charles University, Prague, for the testing in Duabi for the medicine programme. You need to sit their entrance exam this Friday (19th). Email them to register.
  • Gabbitas is bringing a former school careers advisor over to the UK to advise on university entrance (“Universities Uncovered”) at 6.30pm Mon 29th at Arabian Ranches Golf Club. It doesn’t sound like anything we don’t already advise you on anyway but check it out on their website if you want – it’s free.
  • Global Connections sounds like a commercial firm advising students on universities, being paid by UK universities to seek international students. They’re in Dubai Nov 2nd – 6th if you want some advice outside of school. Email Roua.

There’s a notification on Communicator about this post, but we won’t keep doing this as term goes on – please make sure you “Follow this blog” (see right-hand side) to keep getting these notifications.

13s: UCAS personal statement support

We’re now down the the point where you can only get personal statement support from the following places:

  • Sunday and Tuesday lunchtime seminars (this week is the last week)
  • you have 2 half-hour meetings you’re allowed with me in total this year (if you haven’t already used them!) – come book them with the booking sheet just inside the door

Or you can buy external support (like paying for a subject tutor, only for personal statements instead of subject learning) – if you want to know how to use the service we’ve checked and approve of, come and ask me: we use experienced staff working in Europe who understand the UCAS system well. The advantage is that they will be able to give you a lot more time and depth of feedback than tutors in school will. They can even be more “hands on” and write sections for you more fully than tutors will, or know how to.

If you want to purchase some support, come and ask me for details and I’ll put you in contact. You pay them (either online or through the school) and email the work to them. More details later.

US universities – open invitation event

If you are seeking entry to the US university system within the next 2-3 years, you might want to attend this forthcoming event. Not only will you be able to meet representatives of a broad range of excellent universities, you will be able to hear the system explained to you from first thoughts through to final stages of application.

This is not just relevant to year 13, but years 11 and 12 as well – if you are thinking of entering the US university system, go along and hear about it!


Post-exams week

On the week starting Sunday 3rd June, the first after Study Leave finishes, Year 12s will be devoting the whole week to preparing for the next stage of their career after A-level. For some this will mean planning placements, experience or applications for full-time employment, while most will be planning a conventional university application. (Even so, the changes to fees have made the “automatic conveyor belt” to UK universities for British-passport-holding students no longer such an automatic choice, and everyone ought to be considering worldwide universities.)

The week will be devoted to

  • choosing universities
  • writing personal statements
  • organising work placements to enhance CVs

To aid students in making these choices, we have organised two trips in the week – to DIAC (the universities in Dubai), on Tuesday – and to NYU in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. Both trips return before the end of the school day and cost 40AED each for transport costs only. Download the letter, including the booking slip, and complete and return it (cash only) to the Head of Careers as soon as possible – there is some competition for places.

Not only will the visits enable students to get a good “feel” for universities (the facilities, the lifestyle, the workload), to ask relevant questions of Admissions Directors and meet real students, they will provide a refreshing break in the week to enable students to think clearly and continue to develop their choice effectively. I strongly recommend all students go on both trips – but make sure you book at least one. (Students not attending a trip on a given day will instead be working at school with staff supervision on their personal statements.)

Dubai Universities Fair

There’s a Universities Fair in Dubai next week – suitable for anyone of about age 13 upwards who may be planning for the future. It’s 5-9pm Thursday evening and 3-9pm on Friday and Saturday at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The phone number to find out more is 04 3355001

Study outside of the UK?

I’ve talked before about the importance of considering study outside of the UK, and indeed have specifically recommended Holland, where fees are much lower now than the UK and yet courses are still taught in English and internationally well-recognised.

Looks like the news caught up.

With fees now as high as they are, even British students preparing to make a university choice ought to consider Continental European university options.