Leading science schools for Asian students
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Leading science schools for Asian students

Today, Asian students are travelling to universities in the West in record numbers to earn degrees in science. However, the East is no stranger to scientific breakthrough and discovery. When Europe was muddling through the Middle Ages – a period infamously light on innovation – China was rolling out new applications for technologies invented by Eastern dynasties. Navigation by compass, gunpowder, paper making and moveable type – all of these originated in what is now modern-day China.


Pic: Charles Sturt researcher looking into a microscope.

Universities in Asia continue to climb in the international rankings, and there’s no doubt that we’ll see a shift in the coming years, with students from the West flocking to universities in Asia. But for the time being, the best selection of internationally accredited science programs is still found in the Western hemisphere.

The number of Asian students studying abroad across all disciplines has hit a record high. The BBC ran a story last year indicating that 1.27 million Chinese students are studying overseas. India and South Korea are also sending record numbers of students to earn degrees outside their national boundaries. In fact, around the world, well over half of all students studying outside of their home country originate in Asia.

With this sort of mass academic exodus in play, some universities have had to institute quotas to limit the number of students from a particular Asian nationality into their programs. This makes the question of where to study all the more important to prospective Asian students.


Pic: Wits science programs.

Science and Asia
It’s a long-held stereotype that Asian students excel at mathematics and sciences. Of course, sweeping generalizations have to be taken with a grain of salt. More likely, any student that travels overseas to pick up a degree has to have a strong measure of resolve and a steely work ethic. Adapting to a new culture and language while keeping up with studies is daunting, to say the least.

Naturally, students with this sort of academic determination and giftedness are going to enroll in more challenging and competitive programs. Science is a world leader in this sense – especially in the high-tech 21st century. Asian students with degrees in science return home to work on research initiatives, with pharmaceutical companies, on consulting firms and in laboratories. They contribute to development projects, design new technologies for the world market and conduct medical research that changes and extends lives. In short, the accomplishments of graduates of science touch on every aspect of our lives.

Many who are pursuing a degree in science look straight to the US and UK, but there are many other strong and more affordable options available around the world. Australia offers a strong English-language environment with heavy tides of multiculturalism and better value for money at the university level. The Netherlands and Germany are also strong contenders in the fields of science and technology, with many  universities offering international postgraduate coursework in English.


Pic: Kwazulu keyhole.

Another often (and undeservedly) overlooked option is South Africa. Economically speaking, South Africa is on similar footing to emerging economies in the East. English is widely spoken; programs are internationally accredited and tuition is affordable. Even better, Asian powerhouses are investing heavily in South African trade at the moment, so graduates with networks in this part of the world will be highly sought-after in coming years.

The following some of the world’s leading universities offering science programs for Asian students:

Charles Sturt University (CSU) has a reputation for excellence in science education in a wide range of disciplines. It makes a difference to its communities through education and research in fields like agriculture, allied health and environmental science, as well as its highly regarded veterinary science program. State-of-the-art facilities including laboratories, clinics and simulated health care settings provide students with the opportunity to develop practical skills as part of their degree and graduate familiar with the equipment found in the workplace. The university’s positioning in the Asia-Pacific region combined with its international reputation make it a top pick for Asian students studying abroad. Charles Sturt University’s network of campuses spans much of Australia – with campuses across New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, with an additional campus in Ontario, Canada. CSU is one of Australia’s leading providers of distance education, and some Asian students are taking advantage of this by earning their degrees from home. Competitively priced science course offerings make this an even more attractive proposition. Read the full profile here

Germany has been a global leader in science and technology for more than a century now. In fact, for the majority of the 20th century, Germany was awarded more Nobel Prizes for science than any other country on the planet. These statistics are particularly insightful, as they illuminate the motivation that drives so many international students to pursue degrees in scientific fields at German universities. And among Germany’s most internationally appealing universities is Jacobs University Bremen, which ranks among the country’s leading academic contenders. In national rankings, the school receives regular praise for several of its scientific programs – Chemistry, Biology, Computer Science, Political Science and Geosciences. Read the full profile here…


Jacobs University

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) is a leading South African University, and it’s well-positioned to serve international students from Asia and abroad. The Faculty of Science is particularly well-regarded, due in part to the amount of research conducted on campus. NMMU is the only university in the world to be named after Nelson Mandela, and each Science graduate from the NMMU is privileged to carry his name. The Science Faculty has awarded Honorary Doctorates to several international scientists in recent years, including world-renowned Sir David Attenborough and the late Prof Phillip Tobias. The Science Faculty leads South Africa in several research fields, including conservation and ecology, nanoscience and electron microscopy, earth stewardship science, and renewable energy studies. As such, this is one of the most important universities on the continent. Read the full profile here…


Pic: NMMU campus.

As the fastest-rising university in the world university rankings, Radboud is already receiving a great deal of international attention. Prospective students around the world are keeping a close watch on developments here – especially at the graduate level, where so much precedent-setting research is taking place. The faculty and administration have issued a brave call for applications that relatively few universities could get away with. In their own words, they’re not seeking more students. Instead, they’re looking for better students. As such, when a prospective student applies to Radboud, they’re literally answering a challenge. Read the full profile here…


Pic: Radboud Huygens Building.

High-caliber, internationally relevant research is a hallmark of the University of Bergen, particularly within the Faculty of Science. Marine research climate studies are a priority here, and many of the Asian students enrolled at UiB are involved in these initiatives. There are around 2,700 students enrolled in the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, supported by distinguished international professors. Given the international relevance of the research carried here, the faculty is well-networked with international organizations and initiatives. When students travel here from Asia to enroll in UiB’s science programs, they’re plugging themselves into a robust international network. Read the full profile here…

One of the oldest institutions in South Africa, the University of the Free State opened its doors in 1904. It is ranked by Webometrics as one of the ten top universities in South Africa, and it has a strong selection of undergraduate and postgraduate science programmes well-suited for Asian students with international ambitions. Exciting changes have been underway at the UFS for the past few years. The university advocates a genuine human-centered agenda that seeks to heal what the administration recognises as “historical woundedness” in South Africa. Read the full profile here…


Pic: Free State graduation.

A leader in South Africa, the University of KwaZulu-Natal is raising the bar for research among newly industrialized countries. It operates a network of campuses across the KwaZulu-Natal province and has secured its position as a leading choice for scientific study outside of North America and Europe. The university ranks well both in South Africa and abroad. The QS World University Rankings count it among the top 550 universities on the planet. As such, it offers high-caliber curricula and international accreditation at competitive prices well below Western standards. Read the full profile here…

One of the top universities in South Africa, the University of the Western Cape (UWC) is famous for its programs in Molecular Bioscience, Physics, Computer Science and Biotechnology – all of which have earned a top-three national ranking by Webometrics. For students from Asia looking to launch a career in science with international proportions, this is an ideal place to study. Even at a cursory glance, this university stands out. Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Desmond Tuto, is chancellor. This alone points to the prestige of a UWC degree. But there’s plenty more to draw students in from overseas, not least of which is the chance to live and study in Cape Town while developing transcontinental networks. Read the full profile here…

Easily one of the finest universities on the African continent, Witwatersrand University also garners a great deal of international clout. Times Higher Education ranks it in the top global 300, and the university has produced four Nobel Prize Laureates (including one for chemistry) in the last few decades. Science degrees earned here pave the way for cutting-edge careers around the world. From an Asian perspective, Wits has plenty to offer prospective students. This is diverse city with a substantial Indian community. And as South Africa’s economy continues to gain momentum, developers and entrepreneurs from Asia are working overtime to establish stronger economic trade links here. Read the full profile here…