IN today’s highly competitive environment it is imperative that students choose the right institute for higher education. However, it is also very important to choose the right location. Whether Asian students prefer to stay in the region or venture west to Europe or the US, choosing the right study destination can make all the difference.

Asian Correspondent recently conducted an intensive poll among its readers to understand the aspirations and requirements behind students’ decisions when choosing a study destination. The respondents were asked to rate and comment on certain criteria according to preference; these criteria are listed below with our top 5 education destinations for Asian students.

Internationally recognised degrees – High-quality education that involves innovative teaching methods and a global academic reputation should be one of the main markers when choosing a university. It is important that the university offers a qualification that will be widely recognised and an advantage in any future career.

Distinguished research – Research facilities and opportunities at universities indicate the prestige that the institution commands. Recognised universities have state-of-the-art resources and teams that are constantly looking to answer some of the most pressing issues facing our world today.

Perth, Australia is a leading study destination for Asian students. Pic: Perth Education City.

Unique campus life – The campus experience is a vital part of an enjoyable and rewarding education. Popular education destinations invest time and resources into developing this experience in order to bring every student the personalised care that they deserve. Education is not just about academics; social life and other activities are an important step to learning.

Diverse and vibrant community – To be able to immerse oneself in a cultural experience that portrays a myriad of ethnicities and backgrounds is an integral part of the international student experience, on and off campus. Different languages, cuisines and ways of life serve as the starting point to an open and inquisitive mind. It is important to delve into the various aspects of a foreign land to be able to truly grasp an international education.

Employability – Jobs are not always easy to come by in the current economic climate. When travelling to a different country – or continent – it is important to be aware of the job prospects. Several education destinations encourage their graduates to seek jobs there, which is often a choice appreciated by students.

AUSTRALIA
One of the liveliest educational experiences in the world, Australia offers an international lifestyle, competitive costs and a pick of activities ranging from sports and music to travel and culture. The country’s academic reputation guarantees high-quality teaching to ensure individual success.

Australian universities offer a wide variety of programmes that are known for their unique approach to learning. Encouraging initiative forms the foundation of academics, grooming students to think independently, question and analyse. The system is effectively structured and boasts of innovative policy developments.

Australia’s vibrant and friendly community makes it one of the best places to live – one of the reasons behind the country’s popularity as an education destination.

Pic: Monash University.

The country offers qualifications in vocational education, English language training and university programmes. Some of the finest institutes can be found in Western Australia’s capital Perth which offers programmes for a diverse student background from across the globe. The city’s leading universities are brought under the umbrella of Perth Education City, such as Curtin University, Edith Cowan University and Murdoch University. The Government of Western Australia have also organised a department dedicated to training and workforce development that helps students navigate around the plethora of training options available in Western Australia. Perth acts a a melting pot of cultures and backgrounds, bringing together a range of diverse experience from across the world to provide a unique experience for the international student. For a further profile on Perth, click here.

Another study destination that is gaining popularity is Australia’s ‘new world city’ – Brisbane.  Of course, the entire country is home to some of the best universities in the Asia Pacific region. Universities worth looking at include Murdoch University, the University of Western Australia, the University of Sydney, Monash University and Charles Darwin University.

Student visas are required for international candidates. Visas are dependent on the student’s ability to meet education costs, living expenses and travel during the programme duration. Part-time work is available during study and often is the way students meet some of their living expenses. Students are also required to maintain Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) insurance for the duration of the visa.

Scholarships are available for full-time international students, offered by the Australian Government, educational institutes and several other organisations. Awards are also provided for undertaking further education and research, including the prestigious Endeavour Awards funded by the Australian Government.

Australia’s cultural diversity, its stunning architecture and beautiful landscapes make this country a unique education destination!

SWEDEN
Sweden is quickly becoming a popular education hotspot for international students. Studying in Sweden is a unique experience and Asian students are grabbing the opportunity in droves. Swedish universities pride themselves on enabling their students to truly understand the importance of group work, thus equipping them with skills necessary for jobs in the future.

Preparing students to be ambitious and innovative are some of the many virtues of higher education facilities in this Nordic country. Postgraduate programmes integrate theory and practice in an effortless manner and are an increasing draw for students from Asia. Invaluable industry experience combined with the option to learn a foreign language all act in favour of pursuing a degree in Sweden.

Three of its universities have featured in the top 100 Academic Ranking of World Universities (2010) compiled by Shanghai Jiao Tong University - Uppsala University, Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm University. Other such universities of repute are Chalmers University of Technology, which was mentioned in the top 100 for Engineering/Technology and Computer Science in the same year, and Linköping University.

Pic: Karolinska Institutet.

Karolinska, which has been ranked in the top 10 and the top 20 for Clinical Medicine and Pharmacy and Life and Agricultural Sciences respectively in the same list, has a continuing blog on Asian Correspondent with the latest news and events.

Living in Sweden is an exciting opportunity that is waiting to be explored. However, there are certain conditions to be met by non-EU/EEA students, such as those from Asia. Visas will be required for certain countries for studies up to three months. For programmes beyond three months, a residence permit is needed that should be received by the student before arriving in the country. These permits are issued by the Swedish Migration Board and can only be granted once admitted into a full-time programme at an accredited university.

The health and safety of students is a primary concern for Swedish universities. This extends to international students provided one obtains a personal social security number on arrival, available at local tax offices. For programmes that last more than a year, students – irrespective of their country – are guaranteed to receive the same medical benefits as Swedes. Students with less than a year on their residence permits do not require a personal social security number and are exempt from automatic health care. In these circumstances, students should arrange for insurance coverage from their home countries. Some countries, however, have special agreements with Sweden and should their students need access to health care, they need to only present their passport and a certificate from their national social insurance office.

Sweden boasts of a pulsating social life with plenty of outdoor activities and sporting challenges to avail of. Pubs and clubs have made Swedish nightlife famous and this plays a large part in entertaining and contributing to a wholesome student experience!

Unique characteristics such as research, democracy and balanced representation of students make Swedish education a strong base for international applicants. It’s strong educational resources coupled with its ethics and ideals make it the perfect platform for all aspiring careers.

MALAYSIA
Located in the tropics of Southeast Asia, Malaysia has carved a place for itself on the map as a knowledge-based economy. With major educational reforms undertaken in order to meet the standards of a country that offers world-class education combined with high levels of English, Malaysia’s dynamism attracts students from Asia and beyond to participate in this exciting centre of educational excellence.

Popularly known as a ‘Mini Asia’, Malaysia is a melting pot of races and ethnicities making it the perfect place for gaining a solid education while sampling the unique flavours of Asia.

Holding 11th spot in the world’s most preferred study destination list, Malaysia invites students from across the world to delve into its rich heritage. According to UNESCO, the country has captured 2% of market share of all international students in its private education sector. More than 80,000 international students come to study in Malaysia to benefit from its world-class teaching techniques and even avail of its specially tailored programmes for foreign students. It is no wonder then that a 2010 US Newsweek World’s Best Countries survey put Malaysia in the top 8 in its education category among upper middle-income countries.

Diverse in culture, Malaysia is known as a 'Mini Asia'. Pic: AP.

Higher education in Malaysia comprises of 20 public universities, 24 polytechnics, 37 community colleges, 36 private universities, four foreign university branch campuses and approximately 450 private colleges – that’s not including several other institutes of higher learning from countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and New Zealand that offer twinning and franchise degree programmes through collaborations with Malaysian colleges and universities. Prominent Malaysian universities include University of Malaya, Putra Malaysia University  and the University of Malaysia, Perlis (UniMAP). The country’s growing educational popularity is also nurtured by the Malaysian government, which invests increasingly in order to expand and improve the experience to the highest levels. This is further demonstrated as the government has set aside more than 20% of the country’s budget for education and human resource development.

One of the reasons Malaysian education is so appealing is due to the affordability of studying there, compared to other education hotspots around the world. For example, pursuing an Arts or Business bachelor’s degree in Malaysia for international students would cost a total of US $7,000 per annum at a private institution compared to $15,000 in Singapore (private), $35,000 in the US (private) or $25,000 in the UK (public).

Along with high standards of education and affordable rates, Malaysia also provides its students a wide range of programmes to choose from and a truly dynamic community to engage with. For those looking to experience a truly Asian education experience with all the perks of studying in the West, Malaysia is definitely the destination of choice!

HONG KONG
Another education destination drawing in students from across the world is Hong Kong as its education sector continues to grow. Popularly known as the gateway to China, Hong Kong has developed steadily to become the financial capital of Asia. A thriving jobs market and rich heritage make this an attractive option for Asian students who want to experience an exotic and multi-cultural society while investing in an internationally recognised degree.

Studying in Hong Kong is an exciting option as it brings together all the elements of a bustling city combined with an international flair – it has often been recognised as the most westernised city in the East. Hong Kong provides an opportunity to immerse oneself in Chinese culture all the while being exposed to English, as the latter is one of the official languages of this city. Moreover, the international standards set out by universities in Hong Kong are globally recognised, equipping its students with degrees of repute – higher education in Hong Kong has been identified in the prestigious 2010 World University Rankings.

Education in Hong Kong is comparable to any of its Western counterparts, focussing on innovative teaching techniques, engaging students in debate and producing high-quality research that is globally reputed. Two such universities that have embraced critical thinking and creativity are Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Hong Kong Baptist University. Both universities provide an open and intellectual atmosphere, instigating curiosity and creativity, in order to help their students excel.

Pic: Hong Kong Baptist University.

Universities in Hong Kong also have strong collaborations with universities across the world and have several exchange programmes under way for their students to benefit from.

International students are required to obtain a student visa or entry permit before they begin their programme of study in Hong Kong. Once accepted to a programme, students need to find a local sponsor who can support their visa application. Daunting as it sounds, this process is usually taken care of by the university.

Living in Hong Kong is an expensive affair, like any other major city. While fees for one academic year range between US$9,000 to $15,000, living in university halls considerably slashes expenses. It usually costs between US $650 to $2,500 to live in university residences per semester; the same amount would last a month for off-campus residences. Additional costs can range anywhere between US $4,000 to $8,000 per year, including food, transport, leisure and personal items.

And if Hong Kong sounds too expensive to consider, the city offers several scholarships to international students to help ease the financial burden.

For an incredible academic experience Hong Kong, along with all the Asian adventures it offers, is increasingly becoming the destination of choice.

UNITED KINGDOM
An education in the United Kingdom is one of the most sought after by students from across the world. However, it is an Asian population that dominates the international student fraternity here, drawn by its promise of an innovative, individual and inspirational education.

The academic year 2008/09 brought in an international student body of 368,970 according to the UK Council of International Student Affairs (UKCISA). This, when compared to the previous academic year’s 325,985, indicates a growth of 8%. These students have mainly come from China (PRC) and India. Malaysia, Pakistan, Hong Kong and Taiwan are the other Asian countries that feature on the top 10 non-EU country student populations.

The UK is an educational hotspot due to the many universities that feature on world rankings as foremost academic institutions. With programmes ranging from business studies and psychology to law and media – the UK boasts a leading institution to cater to every aspiring career. London’s City University and King’s College are prestigious institutions that have a large number of international students vying to be placed on their programmes. Other award-winning universities in the UK include the University of Bristol, Oxford Brookes Business School, Birmingham School of Media, Newman University College and Teesside University.

Pic: King's College London.

Aside from undergraduate, postgraduate and MBA degrees, the UK also offers English language courses and career-based and pre-university study.

As a result of the wide-ranging programmes on offer, the UK provides several types of visas to suit individual needs. International students may decide on applying for an adult student visa or a student visitor visa for courses up to six months. Prospective student visas are available to those who want to come to the UK to help decide their programme of choice. UK visas are awarded on a points basis and certain criteria need to be met to collect these points.

Numerous scholarships are available for international students upon confirmation of study in the UK. These funding schemes are available to cover course fees and/or the cost of living.

Further, the British Council’s Education UK Partnership invests additional funds in several British Council country offices to build on a network that can provide specific products, services and benefits to its members. There are offices in most countries in Asia, with partnerships in China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

A rich history and a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities make the UK a tempting education destination and an experience of a lifetime.