As a parent and former high school graduate, we know how complex it is to choose its future path. Every year, more and more opportunities present themselves to us. Where to go? Which universities to choose? With the help of Lee Baker, University Counselor and Director of Educational Partnerships at ISHCMC, we have tried to clarify the different opportunities for higher education in Asia with their advantages and disadvantages.

Studying in Asia - Which college to choose for my child?

It is clear that for Lee Baker that a teenager should choose his or her university according to his or her affinities, ambitions and values. The choice should not be based only on the ranking or reputation of the school, but it should consider several aspects:

  • The financial aspect

  • The academic aspect

  • The field of study

  • The cultural aspect

  • School life (sports club, night out...)

In the current context of COVID-19, the health aspect has been added to the list. Care management and proximity to the parental home have become a major concern.

Once these different facets have been analyzed, you can know if this or that school corresponds to the personality and desire of your child as well as to your financial criteria. This choice must suit both the young adult and the parents.


Each international school owes its own guidance counsellor. Your teenager and you will meet him or her to discuss your teen’s future. At ISHCMC, these meetings start one year before the graduation to guide the future graduate in his or her choice. Each student has a personal follow-up to find the right university for him or her.

Studying in Asia - Asian Universities: evolution and ranking

Asian universities have intruded and imposed themselves in the top rankings of the world's best universities in less than 10 years. This year, 12 Asian universities are in the top 100 of the Times Higher Education (THE) global ranking.

Asian universities have definitely nothing to envy American and European universities. Their level is equal or even superior to the most prestigious faculties. It should be noted, however, that these universities are mainly located in China including Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Japan. Outside these regions of Southeast Asia, the level is not yet sufficiently developed to compete with the top of the ranking.

Studying in Asia - Advantages and disadvantages of studying in Asia

Studying in Asia is really advantageous according to Lee Baker.

The first advantage is the closeness to family. It is easy and quick to get home and the time difference is less than if the child went to study in America or Europe.

Then, the price and fee of schools are often cheaper in Asia than elsewhere, especially in the United States.

Also, STEM (Sciences, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) are much more developed and efficient. Their international programs are led by renowned professors from different backgrounds such as Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, which is the 48th university of the world.


Unlike American universities, Asian universities are located in the heart of the major mega cities. There are many activities. Travel is very easy (bus, metro, tram...) and the accessibility by plane is ideal. To reach Ho Chi Minh City, a student from the University of Singapore will take two hours by plane and will cost USD 50 (one way).

Nevertheless, because of their ultra-central location, Asian universities do not have real campuses or student housing. Campus life is, therefore, limited and much less lively. Their university system is very academic, so sports teams and fervor are very poorly developed. Some fields of study are sorely lacking in Asian universities, you will not find any prestigious courses in art, literature or humanities and social sciences for instance. If your teen wants to become a great playwright, he or she should consider Europe or the United States. Finally, within the student population only 10% are westerners, which can be a hindrance for some people.

Studying in Asia - How to apply to an Asian university? What are the entry criteria?

Asian universities look first and foremost at the candidate's grades and academic level, this is what matters most. If the grades do not correspond to the academic level expected by the school, it will not look at your file. 

To get into an Asian school, you must also be prepared to work hard and to self-manage. Lee Baker insists on this point because you must be prepared to take charge of yourself because the university will not remind you.

Once this step has been taken, the candidate will have to go through a Skype interview with members of the university. No travel and no entrance test are required.

Studying in Asia - What future for Asian universities?

For the time being, Asian universities are far from being the first choice of expatriates’ children. The first destination remains undeniably the United States, followed by Canada. However, every year the number of applications falls due to high tuition fee and... Donald Trump’s policy! Foreigners do not longer feel welcome. Another reason is that competition from universities has become much stronger and more diversified with the appearance of Asian universities in the top 100. Their academic standards and infrastructures are as excellent door even better than the biggest American, British, or Canadian universities. They are slowly, but surely, becoming more and more influential and gaining in reputation. It just takes time for them to make their mark and take their place. Five to ten years ago, no one suspected their existence, says Lee.

However, the percentage of western students remains low. This year at ISHCMC, only one western graduate applied to an Asian university: NUS (National University of Singapore). The novelty in the ranking explains this low rate. Just ten years ago, Asian students did not go to these universities. They have become excellent only recently and students tend to look at the ranking in the long-term. Stability, seniority, and reputation are preferred over novelty. There is less risk.


Westerners are also afraid of too many cultural differences. The student body is certainly international but remains very Asian (Japanese, Korean, Chinese...). Westerners are afraid of not recognizing themselves and not feeling at their place. However, Asian universities, which are aware of these problems, are trying to change this situation by introducing scholarships and highly attractive programs to make their campus even more multicultural. 

Every year their statistics get better and the universities are counting more and more westerners among their students. In a few times, more and more Asian universities will be in the top 100 and western students will choose these universities over the others. The excellence of the programs and the prosperous economic situation in Southeast Asia make them universities with a bright future.


Studying in Asia - What about after college? Where do they go after graduation? Do they go back to their home countries?

In 20 years of experience, Lee has seen hundreds of students with different backgrounds. Most used to return to their home countries, but a few years ago she noticed that more and more graduates were returning to work in Ho Chi Minh City, an expatriate city. This trend is due to the fact that their experience as expatriates’ teenagers has left its mark on them and that more and more expatriates are lengthening their stay in Vietnam.


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