di Adriana Cola
Long and short-term international study programs are a unique opportunity for personal and professional development. However, as many of us have already experienced in the past, finding the right study and the right environment can be very hard and time consuming. Information is the key for mobility. Nevertheless, even if we do our best to collect enough data, information is very widespread and often incomplete.
In fact most of the time we rely on university rankings and official websites; we look for the recommendations of acquaintances and friends, who might be busy or unwilling to solve all our doubts… Therefore, the risk of a suboptimal choice is very high.
Wouldn’t it be helpful if there were a huge database that collects the firsthand experiences of students from all around the world? Imagine a pool of thousands of reviews and advices given by home and foreign students about all the schools they have attended! I picture it to be someway similar to the ancient Library of Alexandria, but with an extensive collection of students’ journals! Pretty cool, isn’t it?
This is the idea at the basis of the Schoolgator community, recently founded by a group of enthusiastic students, with the mission to support future students to better choose their education provider and to connect with each other. The project was officially launched on May 13 with a viral campaign on Facebook. People have been asked to share through a survey their opinions about all the universities in which they have been studying as home or foreign students, with transparency and respect.
The first results are impressive. In few days, the survey has collected more than 250 reviews of people coming from 39 different countries. Respondents were current students (68%), interns (5%), full-time employees (24%), and job seekers (3%). Most of them come from Business Schools (66%), while the remnants are split among Arts & Humanities (12%), Mathematics, Physics and Natural Sciences (9%), Social Science (5%), Medicine (3%), Law (3%), and Architecture (2%).
On average, people from North America, Northern and Western Europe, and Asia-Pacific areas have a medium-high perception of the level of higher education in their home country, differently from South Americans and Eastern Europeans, which consider it medium-low.
Similarly, the overall perception of international students is very high for universities of North America, Europe (included Eastern Europe) and Asia-Pacific, while it’s medium-low for South Americans schools.
When it comes to have fun, the best 10 countries for social life and activities are: Italy (Milan), Colombia (Bogota), The Netherlands (Maastricht), Sweden (Stockholm), Australia (Melbourne), Hungary (Budapest) and Poland (Warsaw). Scored low Belgium (Brussels), Peru (Lima) and Russia (Moscow).
One of the most interesting part of the survey is the section “Advice to the Dean”, where people can freely give their recommendations for improvements. The most recurrent suggestion was to adopt a more practical teaching approach and to make internship and work experience a relevant part of undergraduate programs. In this sense, Bocconi doesn’t make an exception. In fact, as written by an exchange student:
“Please make students realize that in the real world, getting a 30 and graduating cum Laude is not a real success predictor, only part of it. Make students focus on other, more skill-based performance measures, and please make an internship/work experience COMPULSORY for entering this MSc…”
Overall, this is not an exhaustive list of the main findings, but I believe that we should wait to get more meaningful insights. In fact, as said by the Schoolgator founder, the plan is to gather and analyze more reviews and to develop an interactive online platform to ease the access to the results.
In conclusion, this is a typical example of network effects: as people participate more intensively to the survey the value of the community and the benefits for the members will increase exponentially. Especially for students going abroad, all candidates should be empowered to make the optimal decision and to be able to choose the university that best matches their interests. Crossing the borders is a challenge and a privilege and nobody should incur in the risk of making a bad choice.
If you are interested, you can check the page of the Schoolgator community here: www.schoolgator.com
Or access the survey here: http://www.schoolgator.com/evaluate-your-university.html