A few weeks ago, my alma mater, University of Melbourne, launched its largest philanthropic campaign, aiming to raise $500 million for the university by 2017. In his welcome message during the official launch, campaign chairman Allan Myers was quoted as saying, “This Campaign will help build on that legacy and will ensure the university can stand tall with the greatest universities in the world, all of which have a common ambition to have a lasting and positive impact on society….”
Stand tall with the greatest universities in the world.
The sentence somehow was inspiring for me. Maybe it is because I have always been utterly proud of my alma mater. Maybe it is because there are cynics who do not believe in the quality of an Australian education.
Without doubt, I believe that the quality of Australian higher education, especially the one offered by my alma mater, is generally great. It gets better if you happen to study at one of the Group of Eight universities – which is a coalition of leading Australian universities and include University of Melbourne, Australian National University, and University of Sydney. Nonetheless, based on conversations with friends and acquaintances, there is a (mis)perception that North American and European universities are superior to their Australian, and Asian, counterparts. For instance, in a piece published on The Economist, the author wrote, “Australia’s universities, like its wine, are decent and dependable, but seldom excellent.”
Likewise, my peers often overlooked the quality of Australian universities and many chose to head to the United States and the United Kingdom for their further education, in pursuit of “better” education. In my opinion, more often than not, we are being misled by the dazzling kaleidoscope of the American and European dreams.
In fact, I have heard some saying, “Even an American degree is more prestigious than those of other countries, say Australian and Asian ones.”
If you are someone who thinks like that, take my word for it: it is not true.
I believe attending the best universities in Australia, Singapore or China is better than attending “random” universities in the States. That said, rankings are popular and satisfactory barometers of the quality of an educational institution, but those lists are by no means completely exhaustive and accurate.
Reflecting on my three years at the University, I am forever grateful for deciding to go to Australia to continue my education and to attend the University of Melbourne. It is famous – or infamous – for introducing Melbourne Model in 2008, a curriculum change which aimed to align itself with leading universities in North America, Europe and Asia. Under the new curriculum, the number of undergraduate degrees is reduced to nine and an emphasis is put on its graduate degrees. Besides depth, it emphasizes breadth, allowing students to choose a variety of elective subjects, including those from other faculties. However, the decision sparked controversy and earned the university a dismissive tag among the skeptics: ‘Harvard by the Yarra’.
Nonetheless, I am still utterly proud of my alma mater, for I have learned some of the most important lessons there. I pursued Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Media and Communications, and the new Melbourne curriculum meant I had the chance to choose other subjects I was interested in, including a Psychology module and a few Business modules.
In addition to the exceptional academic life, the extracurricular activities enriched my overseas education experience too. The university has plenty of student organisations and clubs, catering to different interests, hobbies and skill sets. Furthermore, there are plenty of activities organized at the University and in Melbourne. Among my favourite ones are public seminars organized by the University; I simply think university is much more than just attending lectures and tutorials.
Indeed, education and learning are two different processes. You can get education by simply attending classes, but learning spans beyond classes and exams. Learning is a lifelong process.
During my three years in Australia, I have been a committee member in a student organisation, worked at an e-zine catering to international students, interned at a multinational public relations firm, attended intellectually stimulating seminars (including one by Martin Wolf, CBE of Financial Times!) and participated in amazing cultural events to name a few. Looking back now, the three years can be described in three words: inspiring, enriching, and transformational.
Frankly, in today’s modern world, I believe it could be more beneficial to consider leading universities of the East to pursue one’s further education. There is a great shift of power – Asia is the new powerhouse and according to a piece published on Foreign Affairs, the growth rates of China, India, and other Asian states could outstrip those of major Western countries in the coming decades. After all, the context of a university education, including the extracurricular learning experience and the network, matters as much as the content of the education.
For instance, four of Asia’s best business schools, China Europe International Business School, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Indian School of Business, and Nanyang Business School formed a collaboration called “Top Asia B-Schools”, or TABS, to promote management education in the region. “All these factors tip the scales in favour of Asia as the destination of first choice when it comes to management education,” a TABS brochure says.
I for one would extend it to Asia-Pacific. APAC is an exciting place to be in now. Maybe APAC is where you should be for your higher education.