Many university students today take a part of their degree abroad. If you ask the students, the reasons are many: to compliment your degree, improve your CV, learn a language, form an international network, travel around and get some great experiences.
In Scandinavia, studying abroad is also in trend. 29.000 Swedish students studied abroad in the study year 2014-15. From Finland, 10.171 students took a part of their degree abroad the same year, while additional 7000 Finnish students was taking a full degree at a foreign university. In 2014-15, Norway send out 16.700 university students and 11.000 Danish students also studied abroad this year, compared to 6000 in 2010.
Many Scandinavian students go to the US or other European countries, but many also chose to study at a university in Asia.
Education Danmark, or Edu Danmark, is a Danish agency that offers students from Denmark an opportunity to study abroad. The agency cooperates with a range of high-ranked universities world-wide, also in Asia, where the agency has partner universities in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.
ScandAsia talks to Michael Jerking, Marketing Manager for Edu Danmark, about the agency’s current activities and prospects in Asia and why some students chose to study in a region so different from Scandinavia.
“Overall, we send about 8-900 Danish students abroad per year, but the number grows from year to year, because of many factors” he says.
“One reason is the increasing focus by Danish businesses on students experiencing foreign countries. There have also been some ambitious policies in this field. For instance, one policy has the aim that by 2020 50% of all Danish students should have obtained some part of their degree abroad,” Michael adds.
Edu Danmark is a privately owned agency that provides support for both bachelor and masters students. The agency helps students to apply for a given university, visa, housing etc. and also supports students during their time abroad, about any problems that may occur. Their services are free for students, because Edu is as agency hired and paid by the partner universities.
“Today, we get a lot more inquiries from universities, but we have a limit to how many new partners we take in. We have a fixed amount of counsellors and there is a limit to how many universities one counsellor can give sufficient guidance about, because we want to provide a high level of service and support for the students that we send out,” Michael says.
“It is a big decision for a student to go abroad and it is very important to us, as a company, that the students we send out have a good experience and the universities live up to the students’ expectations. If not, it reflects highly on Edu,” he adds.
The Danish agency was established in 1999, due to an increase in the number of university students, who wish to go abroad for a semester or more. About 100 students per year go to Asian universities through Edu, which has been a stable number for the last couple of years.
“It is mostly students in the field of business and finance that want to study in Asia. They want to experience new emerging markets or try to work in international businesses that grow. In general, if you want to work in business and finance, Asia is an interesting place to be,” he says.
According to Michael, Asia has a range of draws for an adventurous Danish student with little money.
“Many of the universities we offer are Western, which do not include a big cultural challenge to the students. Asia offers something different, with very different cultures than the Danish,” he says.
“So if a student really wants to culturally challenge him or herself and experience something totally different from Denmark, countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia etc. are very attractive. The economy is of course also a major draw; in Asia, you can live long on a small amount of money in many of the destinations we offer,” Michael adds.
Except from China, all Edu’s partner universities in Asia are branches of Western universities, such as the British university, University of Nottingham’s branches in Malaysia and China, and the Australian James Cook University’s campus in Singapore. As of today, Edu has seven partner universities in the region, which is not much compared to 16 in the US and 15 in Australia, which are the agency’s most popular destinations.
“The reason that we do not operate in Asia as much as in the Western regions is mainly because of the students’ demand. The number of students that go to Asia have not increased during the last couple of years, so it has not been necessary for us to expand in Asia,” Michael says.
“It takes up a lot of resources to make new partnerships with Asian universities, mainly because our counsellors spend a lot of time to get familiar with the respective universities. Edu is also an agency, so it is important to us that new partners have experience in working with agencies and have a policy for and use resources on agencies. In our experience, Asian universities lack behind their Western counterparts on this account,” he explains.
“But within the last three years, we have formed partnerships with the two branches of the University of Nottingham, in Malaysia and China, and our partnership with UIBE in Beijing is not so old either. So Asia is probably the region, where we have had the highest percentage increase, from four to seven universities,” Michael adds.
Edu selects a new partner university from a range of criteria: the students’ demand, study environment and facilities, housing, how much resources Edu must use on the partnership, etc. Also the educational quality that the university offers is an important aspect.
“Especially in the past five years, we have increased our focus on the universities educational quality. Before we partner with a new university, we look at its rankings, if it is internationally recognized and have the right accreditation,” Michael says.
“We also look at our current portfolio of universities. If we have ten universities in California in the US, we do not take new partners in from this destination, unless they offer something special. For instance, at the moment, medical students in Denmark have a hard time to find proper universities where to study abroad, so today we look for universities that offer good opportunities for these,” he adds.
Asian advantages: increased job opportunities and free bars
According to Michael, it can pay-off for students who chose to study abroad in Asia for a period. The majority of the Danish students go to universities in Western countries, which means that students, who can write an Asian university on their CV, leave a stronger impression on potential employers.
“It is definitely an advantage that a student has shown he or she can go abroad on their own, to a place very different from Denmark, and still take on a job and make results.”
“Students, who are familiar with Asian culture and have shown they can adapt to a different cultural environment, are more interesting to companies that are active in Asia or consider to expand to the region.”
When students come to Asia, they are often overwhelmed by the major differences from Denmark and Danish culture, according to Michael, who also mentions the process of getting a visa as a usual problem in Asian countries. However, Michael underlines that the students, who studies abroad in Asia, have an amazing experience out here.
“The cultural chock is a challenge to some students, who need time to adapt. That is why we arrange pre-departure meetings to prepare students for the Asian culture. However, as the students overcome and get familiar with the Asian culture, the differences can become a boost of confidence for them,” he says.
“For instance, we recently sent a group of boys from Kolding to Fudan University in Shanghai, China. At first, they were a bit shocked by the massive differences. Who wouldn’t be? There is a long way from Kolding to Shanghai. But during their stay in China the boys got more use to the Chinese customs and learned that Western people in China have a lot of possibilities. It gave them a lot of opportunities in their studies, but also when they took a night out and got free bar because they were Westerners,” Michael explains.
“So if you seize the opportunities the cultural differences can open doors to some unique experiences,” he adds.
If you consider to study abroad in Asia, sign up for one of the Danish agency’s fair, Edu Days – free of charge. Here, you can meet Edu’s many counsellors and talk to representatives from the agency’s 42 partner universities. The fairs take place across Denmark, in Copenhagen September 19, Odense September 20, Aarhus September 21 and Aalborg September 22. Follow this link to register on Edu’s website.