Global students have the competitive edge

Elite universities are educating students with an international outlook as well as academic promise, says Harry Hortyn

Today’s elite universities are driving the research that will shape our future in every field of learning from science and medicine to engineering and the arts. They are building the global knowledge banks that will power tomorrow’s world infrastructure. 

And to educate the next generation of creators and innovators, these institutions need to nurture students’ international outlook so that they can collaborate effectively with people from around the world and understand their cultures, communities and perspectives. 

Young people with a global view not only have the qualities to thrive on the international stage, they have the potential to make a valuable contribution to society worldwide.

Broadening horizons

Global exposure is a trend that’s becoming apparent across the entire higher education sector, as institutions explore ways to open up opportunities on an international scale. It’s becoming clear that, to prepare their students for a competitive workplace, all universities need to take the global view.

With this in mind, Deanna Ford, a graduate of Harvard and member of their interview committee, has made a point of instilling an international outlook in her own children.

“I help students in the USA, UK and beyond to secure places at the university of their choice, and the level of competition is astonishing,” says Deanna. 

“But you have to remember that, in the business world, taking a global view is second nature, which is why these places look for global-minded applicants.”

Giving children the chance to understand people from different countries, backgrounds and cultures can make a real difference, as Deanna explains: “In America, where I live, school summer holidays are three months long. It’s usual for children to go to summer camps for up to six weeks, and my own children have attended international ones in the UK since they were 11. 

“I think it prevents them from living in an American bubble. They learn so much from mixing with children from Europe, India and Asia, and get to understand different perspectives and points of view that will serve them well in the future.”

Global pool of talent

It’s certainly true that young people with an international outlook are more likely to collaborate successfully across country borders. Dr Saroj Velamakanni, who is a guest lecturer at Cambridge and sits on the interview panel for medicine and natural sciences, agrees that a willingness to work together on a global level is crucial in both academia and business.

“Students need to demonstrate cross-cultural experience and the potential to interact and work with different cultures in business. We can’t only look to Europe for innovative medical developments, for example – we have to look at Hong Kong, China and India if we want to be top of our game.”

Velamakanni finds that students with a global way of thinking have a lot to contribute to their institution and to society as a whole. “I still remember one student who had spent time in a top Indian hospital before he applied. He spoke about developments there; how artificial intelligence was improving efficiency and how he envisaged we could use the same thing in the UK. It was the perfect marriage of ideas and aptitude.”

As the workforce evolves to meet the global challenges ahead, universities can go a long way towards preparing their current students to gain international experience. “Encouraging students to investigate international working and studying possibilities, including internships, camps and stints at NGOs, is a good place to start,” says Velamakanni. 

So it seems that the global student will not only be in a stronger position to make the most of their university studies, but they will be better equipped to further the greater good both in their home countries and in the wider world. 

Harry Hortyn is the co-founder of Oxford Summer Courses.