Thursday Thoughts | Opening the Doors to World Class Universities

21 July 2022

There are many reasons to take advantage of the best education you can. Being inspired by excellent teachers and a vibrant curriculum to become a lifelong learner is one reason. Secondary education is also an excellent preparation for further and higher education which for many young adults, is their preferred next step after school. There was a time, long gone now, where the number of young people applying for university was much lower than it is now. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 7,000 students studied at universities in 1970 compared with 1 million in 2021. The transformation is the same in the UK where over 500,000 undergraduate students were studying at University in 2020 compared to just over 50,000 in 1970.

Whilst the number of places available at universities in KSA, UK and the USA have, of course, increased to accommodate this rise in applications, there is also fierce competition for places on desirable courses at the best universities with demand for places outstripping availability. As a result, no longer is it enough to have strong A Level results, there are now many more factors used in deciding which students are offered places.


Broad and Balanced

The top universities often interview for places but even if they don’t, they will want to ensure applicants have a broad and balanced education. It is generally a given that applicants will be in possession of excellent grades when they complete school but university admissions teams want to know that students will participate in the wider life of the university, be able to study independently and will flourish in an academic environment alongside their fellow students. Reading widely, participating in non-academic activities and being engaged by events in the wider world are all important.

Leadership, Collaboration and Initiative

Universities expect their students to independent in their studying, to be confident in expressing their opinions and to engage in debate on topics in lectures and seminars. They also like to see that students can both collaborate with their peers and also take the lead when needed. These latter skills are also much desired by employers too in today’s agile work environment. 
These desired attributes are why the broad British curriculum is so well regarded by universities. In an annual survey carried out by US News in conjunction with Wharton University of Pennsylvania and BAVGroup the UK consistently ranks in the Top 3, and frequently in first place, for the quality of education offered. 
The wider curriculum of music, drama, physical education, cooking, design technology and art all give opportunities for pupils to develop skills which complement the traditional ‘academic’ subjects. Additionally, the cocurricular programme offered in all British curriculum schools allows opportunities to gain breadth and depth in a range of areas, develop teamwork and leadership skills and learn to collaborate with others. Thus when students arrive at university, they settle into the independent way of working and living much more quickly. The opportunities available include The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, Debating, Model United Nations, sports fixtures and educational visits and trips.


Applying to University

Another strength of British curriculum schools, particularly independent schools, is the support and expertise offered by well qualified and experienced Higher Education staff. At Downe House Riyadh, we benefit from a vast higher education department at our sister school in the UK, where the team have experience of supporting students to enter universities not only in the UK but across the world. Our team of staff will support pupils through the application process of their chosen university and country, advising on which are the best universities for their skills and subject choice, how to write their personal statement and much more. Every step of the way pupils will be guided and advised by expert staff. Our Sixth Form opens in August 2023 but we begin preparing our pupils well before Sixth Form.

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