Top Universities in Asia Offer Prestige, Business Skills

Delece Smith-Barrow

National universities, which offer a full range of undergraduate and graduate programs and have strong research initiatives, often top the list of the best schools to attend in Asia, higher education experts say.

The University of Tokyo in Japan, Peking University in China, Seoul National University in South Korea and National University of Singapore are just a few of the top universities in Asia, says David Schmidt, vice provost of international affairs at Middle Tennessee State University.

One reason these institutions thrive is because of their prominent alumni and knack for getting students hired.

"They have a fantastic reputation with respect to placement for employment," says Schmidt, whose doctoral degree focused on women in higher education in Asia. Many graduates from these schools eventually take jobs as political leaders.

Several of Japan's recent prime ministers, for example, have attended the University of Tokyo. Schmidt likens this trend among political officials abroad to the number of U.S. presidents who graduated from the law school at Yale University.

"It becomes kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy," he says.

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A school's affiliation with well-known American universities can also raise its prestige and make it more sought after, experts say.

National University of Singapore has a partnership with Yale University, and professors from Northwestern University acted as consultants to help create the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, says Alan Shao, dean of the business school at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. He has traveled to Asia more than 100 times and lectured at several universities on the continent, such as National Taiwan University and University of Hong Kong.

Many of these schools can be a great fit for aspiring business school students in undergrad or graduate school, though Shao notes the incentive for going to grad school in Asia may be stronger.

"Their strength is by far in the graduate end, in the graduate programs, especially with the MBAs," he says. "The stronger schools don't ignore that they're in Asia and that's a vibrant business environment."

Faculty members at these schools are known for preparing future business leaders, and experts in other disciplines, making the institutions that employ them more attractive, experts say.

"Chinese universities have done an excellent job of bringing in top faculty," says Shao. "I know India is doing the same thing."

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For example, Chinese professors educated in the United States often aspired to teach in the U.S. Now, more American-educated Chinese professors are heading back to China because the offerings at Chinese universities can be enticing, he says.

Prospective students interested in studying in Asia should plan accordingly, experts say. Even if students speak the language of the country they are considering, that may not be enough to get by, says Schmidt of Middle Tennessee State University.

Schmidt suggests they ask themselves: "Can I really handle academic Korean? Academic Chinese? Academic Japanese?"

If they want to go to school in a predominantly English-speaking environment, regions such as Singapore and Hong Kong may be a better fit.

"These are societies that utilize English. I would consider them to be quite bilingual," Schmidt says.

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Japan is also a popular destination for American students, says William Cummings, professor of international education and international affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Waseda University and Keio University are some of the most popular and oldest universities in the country, he says.

He encourages U.S. students studying abroad to step out of their comfort zone to have a richer experience.

"Once you're in the country, try to limit your interaction with people from your own country," he says.

Students from an American college can also help ease the transition, says Shao from the College of Charleston. If students are transferring to a school in Asia, they can find peers at their current school who are from the country they'll soon visit and ask about cultural differences.

"I think a lot of times we undervalue the contribution that a foreign student can make in preparing us in visiting their homeland," he says. "That's a rich pool of culture."

Get more U.S. News coverage of the Top World Universities.