Sarah Scrafford, who regularly writes on the topic of Online University Rankings, wrote this guest post:
Are European and US college programs equivalent?
The transatlantic divide is being further torn apart by the educational argument. The fierce debate rages on – are the three year degrees offered by institutions in the UK and across most of Europe equivalent to the four year programs on offer at US colleges? If not, which of them is the more superior? Are graduates of the shorter program less smart than their American counterparts? Or is it vice versa?
Colleges in the USA are being urged to consider admitting students from the UK and other parts of Europe where three year undergraduate degrees are the norm, to their graduate programs, without requiring them to take additional courses to qualify. Their argument – the first year of any degree program is dedicated to general education courses with the specialization (or major) starting only in the second year. European and UK universities focus on the major right from the word go, and so are able to learn as much as the Americans in just three years. As for the fact that three year graduates are asked to take an extra course to qualify for a graduate program across the Atlantic, British academics argue that this is a wasted exercise since they’re just learning what they already know – the year they’ve missed is the first year, the one that teaches general education. But the extra course they take deals with their major once again, a repeat of what they’ve already learned in college.
Other allegations and arguments abound, as to why the United States is refusing to change and standardize its education system with the most of the rest of the world (Australia and India are two other countries that follow three year undergraduate degree programs), and most of them are not exactly flattering to the US:
· Some accuse US institutions of being money-minded – a four year program will cost more for tuition than a three year equivalent.
· Others are skeptical of the quality of high school education in the US – they allege that high school graduates are lagging behind when compared to UK and European standards, and so require that extra year (freshman) of college to bring them up to speed with the rest of the world. Besides this, in the US, kindergarten students begin a year or two later than their peers in the UK and Europe. This puts them at a distinct disadvantage when they reach high school.
Supporters of the US educational system on the other hand, have this to say in their defense:
· Institutions are hesitant to admit three year graduates because, even though they’re smart, they’re not well-versed in marketing their skills. They’re often unable to communicate or even write well. You may be a high-flying engineer, doctor or lawyer, but it all boils down to nothing if you cannot write or orate well.
Regardless of which is better, there are some who argue that the US must rethink its policies and admit graduates of three year programs because:
· Countries like India, which boasts an excellent K12 education program and currently sends the largest number of foreign students to the country each year, have a three year degree system in place. If the US throws open its educational doors to them, colleges will see a massive rise in the level of enrollment, and correspondingly in their profit margins.
· If they do not do so, they will end up losing promising students to other countries where they are accepted, and the tuition fees are much cheaper.