Debate of the week: American Idol?

by Emily

American universities have always held an appeal for young people across the world. Most British teenagers could name the Ivy League universities and the qualities that their students possess: intellectual, high-achieving and exceptionally talented.

It's perhaps no surprise that more and more of the UK's teenagers are choosing to attend US universities. In many cases, they give the brightest and the best a passport to a first-class education and a first-class life. According to a recent article in The Times, however, it's the lure of meeting a rich man that is encouraging female A-level students to abandon their UCAS forms in favour of SAT tests (the American university entrance examinations) and transatlantic flights.

At First Tutors, we have certainly noticed this emerging trend in young people choosing US universities and a concurrent rise in the demand for SAT tutoring. But is that really just because female students are fed up of British men and want to bag themselves an American alpha male?

To believe that is to believe a facile argument that does young people a great disservice. If you are bright enough to attend St Paul's (the UK's leading girls' school which, according to The Times' article, sent 12 pupils off to American universities last year) you would not be stupid enough to incur the great time and expense involved in doing so just on the off-chance that you might meet and marry a future President.

We feel that young people are attracted to US universities for other, better, reasons. Society is more globalised, and young people see their opportunities all over the world. Some US universities, especially Yale and Harvard, have unparalleled resources and offer an education and experience that is second to none. Of course, the UK has first-class universities too, but now that students have to pay their tuition fees in this country, some undergraduates feel that if they are to pay money, they may as well benefit from a unique and international experience in return.

These days, higher education is a consumers' market. With the amount of scholarships on offer across the US, it actually might save some UK students money to study in the States. Let's support our students in their choice of university, wherever it is, applauding their real reasons and goals, rather than patronising them with sexist nonsense that belongs in the 1950s.