This year’s QS World University Rankings and Times Higher Education rankings featured several universities from unlikely countries. Romania, Armenia, Croatia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Hungary and Qatar all had institutions that placed in the top 1,000.
The University of Split and the University of Zagreb in Croatia, Central European University in Hungary and Qatar University are ranked in top 1000 in Times Higher Education (THE) rankings this year.
These universities are partnering with older more established counterparts from the US, the UK, Australia, Canada to offer world-class education and also niche courses in medicine, metallurgy, economics and engineering. They’re also welcoming more international students with more wide ranging degrees.
“We assess the universities on their teaching environment, research environment, citations (research influence), and international outlook,” says Phil Baty, World University ranking editor at Times Higher Education. “These universities are ranked high this year because they are consistently producing research papers, catering to more international students and have a good teacher: student ratio.”
Should they be on your list of possible destinations when you make your study-abroad plans? Experts and students offer some insights.
Richa Gokhale, 19, secured admission into Armenian State University of Economics (ASUE) to get her Bachelors’ of Economics for this year. She aims to specialise in food commodity research and quality expertise. “The course has scope in India, I can work with Nestle India, for instance, after graduation,” says Gokhale. “The tuition is much lower compared to the US and UK. There was also less paperwork required for admission, and the visa process was smooth.” Gokhale says that one of her reasons for choosing Armenia was that the university has international faculty and tie-ups with universities in Canada, Australia and the US.
“We are seeing more students, especially from tier-2 and tier-3 cities inquiring about Eastern European countries,” says Bakhtawar Krishnan, education counsellor and managing director, Inspirus Education, a study abroad consultancy. “This is because of the cost of education is lower than the West. Also most of these countries allow students to travel for free within their borders and have marketed their courses well through education fairs and counselling sessions.”
Shashank Tiwari, 17, a science student from Ranchi is planning to go to Qatar University to study engineering next year. “The university’s website and social media handles are very active, they answer all our questions, there are details about all the research work that is going on in the fields of aeronautical and mechanical engineering on the website,” says Tiwari. “The biggest plus is that the tuition is low and the university provides us with global exposure.”
Karan Gupta, education consultant and founder of Karan Gupta Consulting says the low fees are only part of the allure. “Some students, who do not get admission into MBBS and medicine courses in India, go to study in Croatia or Hungary,” he says. “You just need to make sure that the course is recognised by the Medical Council of India.”
And these countries are keenly looking at what students want when they study abroad. The government of Slovakia offers several scholarships for students from Asia and the Middle East. “Economics is a popular course choice for students choosing to study in Slovakia,” says Gupta. “And in Lithuania, you can get scholarships for and take up integrated study programmes that combine bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and PhD. These programmes are popular in the fields of law and medicine.”
Baty says that universities in Croatia offer degrees in chemical engineering, social sciences, health sciences, forensics, and kinesiology (the study of the mechanics of body movements). You can apply for public life scholarships here, it means that you can work for community development initiatives taken by the university to waive your tuition.
Eastern Europe offers a good mix of public and private universities. “The cost of living is lower, people are mostly bilingual and tolerant,” says Gupta. “Plus, it’s beautiful. There are lush green forests, rivers and mountains, so a popular choice for the Instagram generation.”
Qatar University attracts students who want to make a career in the fields of energy, environment, population and sustainability. “There are 45 bachelor’s degrees, 25 master’s degrees and various diplomas on offer at the university,” says Nainika Ajani, manager of Early Advising at The Red Pen, an education consulting firm. “The university also offers the first-ever PhD programme in Gulf Studies. Through this programme, you can learn about and help solve issues in the region.” The courses are taught in both Arabic and English so sure the course you apply for is in the English language.
The universities in Eastern Europe and Qatar are working on increasing diversity on campuses by making policies favourable for international students. But you need to be mindful of what you are getting into. “Language can become a major problem when staying in an Eastern European country, for instance, so learn the language of the country you are going to,” says Krishnan. “The weather is also an issue for students who come from tropical countries.”
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