Part of the conversation: the future of British education for overseas students

Our CEO Dr. Mengmeng Wang-Purcell is passionate about developing educational pathways for students in the UK and overseas that ensures their short- and long-term achievement and educational wellbeing. With that in mind, she joined a webinar discussion with The British Chamber of Commerce Shanghai discussing the future for Chinese students wanting to study in the UK.

Introduced by David Mansfield, the Chair of the education forum for the Chamber, the session focused on those coming from China and into the UK, looking at the popularity of the UK market, why it’s attractive, what the barriers are and what parents and students can do to ensure they find the right pathway for them. Dr. Mengmeng Wang-Purcell spoke alongside Freddie Winterbotham from Holland Park Education China in Shanghai, Sherry Fu from the China Centre of the University of Manchester, and Yasmin Sarwar from the Oxford International College.

The growing interest in UK education and barriers to entry

The conversation looked at the ongoing interest of Chinese students wanting to study in the UK. Freddie highlighted that parents are increasingly wanting children to join UK education earlier as they feel it gives a better chance of accessing the top schools. There was some sense that the growth in interest as well as the exceptionally high level of English language and general education that students are coming to the UK with, is in part due to the immense growth in international schools in China. The result is almost a two step process, where students attend international schools before studying overseas.

Sherry highlighted that there are significant barriers for students entering high level subjects such as medicine, engineering and law. This makes strong pathway programmes and mentoring exceptionally important and rewarding in helping students to navigate their own journey, discover what they want to do and achieve long-term. Yasmin also highlighted some of the challenges that students face regarding changing policies on education as well as some of the more recent concerns and barriers to entering UK education presented by Covid-19 lockdowns.

Supporting parents and students in deciding the right path for them

Dr. Mengmeng Wang-Purcell focused on giving parents and students the tools for finding the right education pathway for them. She said: “With so many organisations and companies offering courses outside the curriculum, I often get asked by Chinese parents and students how you know which one works? I understand their frustration because there’s no real frame of reference and the volume can make you cautious and confused.” 

She highlighted the pillars on which she founded CamVision, which she refers to as ‘PACE’. 

  • P is for Passion: Whether you’re applying to Oxbridge, any other good university in the UK, or a job after graduation, the first thing they are looking for is whether you have passion. What we mean is passion in how you present to them. Passion leading to motivation. Whether you have enough incentive to study this subject, or do this job. To show it, you would have tried to find more to read over and beyond what’s required. Try to find relevant events to attend, groups to join or competitions to enter. In my experience, competition itself doesn’t really matter to universities like Cambridge, but entering shows that you are passionate enough about this subject to go beyond school activities and get involved. You also need to be able to talk about the subject or about this job indicating that you care enough to find out more. 
  • A is for Academic: When you have convinced the university or the company that you are passionate about the course or the job, the next thing they evaluate is if you are intelligent enough and committed enough to put in the work to achieve. This is in part shown in your grades at the point of application, and is probably the point that makes the most of the sense to many Chinese students and parents because it is the most important, and sometimes the only, requirement that universities or workplaces are looking for in China. However, at universities like Oxford and Cambridge, it’s likely the least important item on your application – it’s the entry point and every other student will have top grades in order to apply in the first place. So, you need two more elements to stand out from the crowd. 
  • C is for Critical Thinking: In Chinese, we have a saying, 高分低能. The translation refers to a group of graduates who are extremely academic but have no practical skills. When you are preparing to apply to your university or a job in the UK, finding a course or activities that help develop your critical thinking is very important. You need to show that you know how to apply what you learned at school to real life situations. A top university would not want to waste their resources on training someone who might not be able to use their skills to make a contribution to society. Not to mention that at a workplace you are expected to create value for your company independently.
  • E is for Exposition: You need to be able to share your inventions and ideas so that other people can understand you, work with you and develop something new based on your concept. There are a lot of debate camps for example in China, or courses to teach you public speaking. Those are helpful, but it’s not just about sharpening your oral presentation skills.  Exposition also means that you can structure your mind and your idea in a systematic and clear way to make other people, even those with no background in the subject, understand you. This is key when applying to universities and also to securing a job. 

She says: “If you stick with those pillars when looking at courses or summer programmes, focus on developing those four elements for self or children and I am sure you will succeed easily in the UK.”

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