International Masters degrees are rising in popularity as more prospective students are drawn to the prospect of studying in a multinational environment.
The growing appeal of international Masters degrees is closely intertwined with the ongoing economic globalisation and the resultant internationalisation of the workforce. Employees now have to be able to navigate cultural differences as they interact with colleagues and clients from different backgrounds. They also need to be aware of cross-cultural subtleties, and one of the ways to acquire these skills and understanding is to enrol in an international Masters programme.
It should be noted that these programmes do not only include courses delivered abroad. You can also study for a Masters programme with an international curriculum or a programme that offers an international environment taught by foreign professors and that attracts students from abroad.
Subject is king
Before moving through a rundown of the most important factors for choosing an international Masters programme, it should be pointed out that the leading factor should be the subject you want to study. Knowing what major you want to focus on can alone greatly influence the choice of destination and programme.
Philip King from Ireland enrolled in an intensive nine-month Masters in Economics and Finance at the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics (Spain) in 2017. “I felt the course in Barcelona was superior to anything available in Ireland in my field. The reputation for quality and the quality of the researchers (and their name recognition) are higher,” he told the Irish Times.
This is a sensible strategy to follow. You can get your bearings by considering where the subject you want to study has strong traditions and the quality of teaching is high. For instance, countries such as the US and UK are famous for their top Finance programmes. For Engineering, Germany is an outstanding study destination, and those interested in Banking need look no further than the UK and Switzerland. Only after you have figured out the subject you want to focus on, should you start considering other factors.
Language of tuition vs. local language
International Masters programmes give you the opportunity to study in English, but the question is what should you do if English is not widely spoken off campus? Granted, the local language may not be an admission requirement, but it is an advantage to those who want to secure an internship or pursue a career in the country where they are studying. Some institutions, for example Mannheim Business School (Germany), strongly encourage international participants to start taking local language courses prior to the programme start.
The chances are there will be plenty of opportunities to learn the local tongue. “Though you may conduct your studies in English, you should be able to take courses in the local language at your university. You’ll also have plenty of opportunities to practise your language skills outside of the classroom with the local friends you’ll meet on campus,” Richelle Gamlam wrote in a piece for Go Overseas.
Looking for the right cultural fit
If learning a new language invariably means getting familiar with the respective culture, then speaking the language of your host country will considerably cushion any cultural ”blows” you may otherwise suffer.
However, even if you speak the local language, you are bound to experience bouts of homesickness, especially at the beginning of your studies, but this is not unusual for people trying to adjust to a new culture. Therefore, it may be worth asking yourself some questions before choosing a programme. Is the course you are considering on another continent, i.e. too far away from your home country? What are the chances of meeting compatriots in your host country? If you have never been to the country of your choice, maybe it would be wise to pay it a visit for a short-term study trip. This will help you make up your mind about whether you want to study there or not.
It is worthwhile also exploring multicampus universities. With campuses in Switzerland, Spain, and Germany, EU Business School offers a diversity of cultural settings to choose from. Furthermore, you can often obtain two diplomas. For example, students completing a Masters programme on the EU Barcelona campus receive a state-recognised, university Masters degree accredited by Universidad Católica de Murcia (UCAM), Spain, as well as an EU Business School (Switzerland) private and internationally accredited Masters degree. Thus, you can benefit from the culture during your studies, and also expand your employment prospects to new markets.
Learning and professional environment
One of the obligatory steps you should take before choosing an international Masters is to familiarise yourself with the learning and professional environment in the countries that you are considering. It is a good idea to review the class profiles (if available) of the programmes for the percentage of international students, their average age, and years of average work experience. Also, note their academic background. This research will help you decide if the environment will help you achieve your goals and if you will feel comfortable during your studies.
The same goes for the professional environment. Try to find out if your desired study destinations offer the right professional setting for you. Bear in mind that universities typically have strong ties to local businesses, which translates into internship opportunities, practical projects, and the chance to see executives on campus as guest speakers.
Exploring career prospects
Last but not least, international Masters aspirants should inform themselves about the career prospects associated with the programme of their choice. Ideally, career stats and employment reports will be available on the website of your school of choice, but if they aren’t, you can contact career services and request the information. Alumni employment reports are highly useful because they grant applicants a peek at the different career paths taken by graduates and their employment by sector and by function. These reports also contain other useful data such as the percentage of graduates who find jobs three months after graduation, average starting salary, and what percentage of alumni find jobs outside their home country.
If you plan to pursue a career in your host country, make sure to check the visa and work permit regulations. For instance, if you plan to work in the UK, find out how Brexit may affect your plans. The situation in the US also remains unpredictable and needs to be followed closely.
If you study in a country where your studies are in English but the language is not widely spoken off campus, you should research if you can find work only with English. If you plan to work in Germany, for instance, you can find a job at an international company where German is not required, but if you want to give your career a boost, you need to be able to speak at least some German. Looking further ahead, if you want to start a family there, you certainly need to know German, as it is the language used by schools, nurseries, banks, administration establishments, etc.
The good news for international Masters degree students is that graduates with international experience are highly valued by employers. Sonal Sutcliffe, head of development UK at HSBC, where 30% of the summer internship intake to the global banking and markets division are students from international universities, told Times Higher Education: “Having multicultural awareness and an international mindset is definitely an advantage as individuals move forward in their careers. Spending a period of time working in a different culture gives a greater awareness and appreciation of different points of view as well as knowledge of what is important in different communities.”
There are many international Masters programmes around the world and choosing the right one can be daunting. To determine which opportunities best match your needs, you should carefully analyse the right factors. It is a decision that will determine the course of your life, so choose wisely!
This article is original content produced by Advent Group and included in the 2018-2019 annual Access MBA, EMBA, and Masters Guide under the title “Transcending Boundaries”. The latest online version of the Guide is available here.