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The United States is known for its prestigious universities. However, have you ever thought about earning your degree abroad? This article explores just three of the many countries worldwide that have stellar institutions of higher education.

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Canada

According to NBC News, Americans are exploring Canadian colleges and universities not only for the experience abroad, but also due to cost considerations. A college education in Canada often costs less than one in America, even before taking into account financial aid packages. For example, a Bachelor of Arts from McGill University comes in at $15,346.80 per year for tuition, while a year of tuition at Stanford University clocks in at $42,690. The disparity helps to explain why, as USA Today reports, Canadian colleges and universities saw a 50 percent increase in American student enrollment between 2000 and 2011.

Canadian and U.S. college systems differ in ways other than just cost. For example, many Canadian schools offer their students the option of completing their bachelor's degree in three years, as compared with the U.S.'s standard four years (students in Canada who want to earn an honours bachelor's degree or continue on to graduate school are typically required to earn a four-year degree, however). Despite these key differences, Canadian colleges are also similar to American institutions in that they allow students to select their major and explore fields of study by taking different classes.

England

Some of the best universities in the world are located in England. In fact, Oxford University and Cambridge University are ranked second and seventh, respectively, in Times Higher Education's 2013-2014 World University Rankings. And like Canada, England's college system allows students pursuing a bachelor's degree to complete their course of study in three years rather than four. A college education in England costs more than one in Canada, but is still below American university levels. For example, an undergraduate degree in molecular and cellular biochemistry at Oxford costs 16,545 British pounds for overseas students, which translates into $27,527.57 per year.

British universities like Oxford and Cambridge follow a slightly different system than American institutions. Many of them adhere to what is called a collegiate system, in which a university is divided up into several largely autonomous colleges. Oxford, for example, has 38 different colleges, each with its own governing body comprised of a head of house and several fellows. Another unique aspect of England's universities is their tutorial system. While the university provides lectures and exams, students get one-on-one instruction through tutorials with an expert in their field of study (who is often a faculty fellow). Tutorials are essentially a student-instructor relationship in which a student writes weekly essays that he or she then shares and discusses with his or her instructor once a week. Some American colleges and universities implement this style of instruction on a smaller scale, but it originated and is most prevalent in the U.K. One advantage of these tutorials is that students receive in-depth and very interactive instruction in a particular academic field.

China

China's college system, at least for its domestic students, is quite different from those of America, Canada and even the UK. Incoming undergrads must take the rigorous National Higher Education Entrance Examination, commonly known as gaokao, which determines what school they can attend and even what major they'll pursue. International applicants may have it a bit easier in that they don't need to take the dreaded gaokao, but then there's that minor catch of needing to be proficient in Chinese. One indisputable benefit, however, is the cost -- annual tuition for Peking University's undergraduate degree in a humanities subject is 26,000 RMB -- roughly $4,268.24. The cost of an undergraduate degree in a science-related subject is 30,000 RMB, or $4,924.89.

Peking University is the most renowned university in China, boasting 120 different undergraduate programs, 242 graduate programs, and 14 research institutes and centers. Other well-respected universities in China include Fudan University and Tsinghua University.

Explore the world's universities

Wouldn't it be great if there was a free and convenient way for you to explore some of what international universities and colleges have to offer? Great news -- there is. Massive open online course providers such as Coursera and edX don't just partner with American universities and colleges -- they also provide online courses from institutions worldwide. Coursera, for example, offers classes from several international schools, including:

  • National Taiwan University
  • Beijing University
  • Copenhagen Business School
  • University of Toronto
  • Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

Meanwhile, edX offers courses from the following institutions:

  • Seoul National University
  • McGill University
  • Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne
  • University of Tokyo

Research and planning are key

If you are thinking about studying or even earning a degree abroad, make sure to conduct thorough research of the cost (not just tuition, but cost of living, educational materials, etc.) and the academic departments at the institutions you are interested in. Also, it is key to thoroughly research whether the degree you want to pursue will enable you to get a job in the field you want and the region you want. In other words, research whether earning an engineering degree in France will be relevant to the work you aspire to do in California or even another country abroad. Or, look into whether that graduate degree in journalism from a U.K. university will allow you to work in NYC, if that is indeed where you want to go post-graduation. It's also important to note that tuition prices can change at any time, so it's best to contact any schools you are considering to determine the most up-to-date tuition costs.

Sources:
"Americans head north for affordable college degrees," US News, 24 April 2013, Rehema Ellis and Jeff Black, http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/24/17882085-americans-head-north-for-affordable-college-degrees?lite
"College in Canada more appealing than ever for Americans?" USA Today, 28 June 2013, Devin Karambelas, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/06/25/americans-heading-to-canadian-colleges/2456283/
"Fee Calculator -- Undergraduate Tuition & Fees," McGill University, https://www.mcgill.ca/student-accounts/tuition-charges/fallwinter-term-tuition-and-fees/undergraduate-fees
"The Student Budget," Stanford University, http://www.stanford.edu/dept/finaid/undergrad/budget/
"Times Higher Education World University Rankings," Times Higher Education, http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2013-14/world-ranking
"University of Oxford: Fees and Living Costs," Oxford University, 28 August 2013, http://www.ox.ac.uk/feesandfunding/fees/
“General Information,” Peking University, http://english.pku.edu.cn/Admission/InternationalStudents/GeneralInformation/