Opinions on graduate school abroad (outside of US) for engineering?

I’m currently at UC Berkeley studying civil engineering (emphasis in transportation).

I have been thinking about potentially going abroad for grad school. Some schools that I have been looking into are Imperial College London, University of Glasgow, Technical University of Munich, and University of Hong Kong. Although some of these schools are competitive so I’ll be looking into others as well.

I asked some people about this and they all said that if I plan to return to the US to work, it’s not a good idea to go abroad since many employers won’t recognize a foreign degree. There’s a chance I might want to move to Europe but I also might stay in the US.

Part of the reason I want to go abroad is because it’ll either be cheaper or I’ll be able to finish in one year. I also sadly didn’t get to study abroad because of COVID…

Please let me know if you have any opinions on going to grad school abroad for engineering, or if you have anything to say about grad school in general. Thank you!

I’m a Brit so can tell you about UK schools. You’re right in the UK masters are usually 1 year, not 2 year, due to the fact our undergraduate degrees are specialised in one subject.

Imperial is an absolutely brilliant institution, in a very posh, green and picturesque part of London. By those in the know, for STEM based degrees Imperial is usually seen as better than Oxford and roughly on par with Cambridge. Imperial, along with Oxford, Cambridge, the London School of Economics (LSE) and University College London (UCL) are seen as the best universities in the country. This means it’s hyper competitive, however.

If considering London, I would also suggest University College London (UCL). It is generally regarded as the 3rd best multi-faculty university in the UK after Oxford and Cambridge (LSE and Imperial are specialist schools that sit above UCL but in-between Oxford and Cambridge). It is located in Bloomsbury - again another beautiful part of London. It is nestled within the University of London and all its constituent colleges so has a distinctly more student-y feel than other London universities. Bear in mind that London is an exorbitantly expensive city to live in.

UCL and Imperial are some of the UK’s premier institutions. I doubt that their name would not carry any weight. I mean Imperial has been a partner university to MIT for decades now. UCL works with Yale among others. All top American schools. But perhaps, that does not translate over to the American job market. All I can say is that these schools are excellent word class institutions.

There are many one-year engineering masters programs in the U.S. Many, but not all, Masters of Science programs are 2-year, but some are less. Most Masters of Engineering programs can be completed in one year. Typically, these are 30-credit programs, with no thesis. My son is an engineering graduate student at Michigan, so I looked at their programs. Master’s Programs – Civil and Environmental Engineering

Michigan is pricey, but Georgia Tech, Purdue, and Texas are top-rated civil engineering schools that cost less.

I would consider UCL but they don’t offer a focus on transportation. I’m sure they would both carry weight in the US like you said.

Do you know how competitive it is to get into Imperial? Like the GPA I should have, research, etc.

Thank you so much for your response!

It depends on the programme really. May I ask which one? Incidentally Imperial and UCL do a joint degree in MSc Transport - which may or may not be of interest to you. On average, there are 7 applicants for 1 place at postgraduate at Imperial - this of changes depending on course (with some courses rising to 20 applicants to 1 place). But don’t let this deter you.

Usually the minimum requirements for entrance into Imperial is a second class upper division (2.1 degree) undergraduate degree. It’s difficult to convert this to GPA as the systems do not exactly line up. However Oxford rate a 3.7 GPA as a high 2.1. Imperial also weight your grade by the selectivity of your school - Berkley is a selective school so the GPA requirement should be lower. You should aim for a minimum of 3.3-3.5 GPA. However, it must be noted that this an absolute minimum. In my experience, most people applying will have first class degrees or very strong 2.1 degrees (ie 3.7-4.0). Again it’s not an exact science. Some may even have masters and PhDs already - this was the case when I was at the LSE. But don’t fret too much, entrance into UK universities is mostly determined by grades. So if you have great grades you’re already over halfway there.

Secondly, you need a strong statement of purpose. UK schools are not interested in your swimming or chess hobbies. In it include extra-curricular, courses, research, work experience and insights relevant to your chosen degree. And only those relevant to the degree. You should explain how you plan to use the course in your career or as a means for further study - link it back to your research interests. Talk about why you like the course, and perhaps pick out modules. It should be passionate, but professional, of course. I’m sorry if this comes across patronising - I only spell it out just in case!

The other matters (like references) are stated on the website. I will just say, if you are going to apply think about doing it sooner rather than later. Masters programmes run on a rolling admissions system here. So the earlier you apply the more likely you are to succeed. Also consider the potential impact of COVID - we are in our third national lockdown, however we are ‘successfully’, by the standards of our incompetent Tory government, deploying a vaccine rollout. But seek the official statement from Imperial on the state of their in person teaching next year.

Best of luck!

Thanks for the response! The only problem is that a lot of these schools are quite expensive since I’m out of state. If I can get into a California program for 1 year I might consider it

Don’t forget that the London schools also charge international students handsomely. Yet likely still lower than top American schools. Honestly, the prices some US schools charge is criminal. Nearly all universities in the UK are public.

Also London is ridiculously expensive to live in. But it’s vibrant, dynamic and diverse. I’ve lived here my entire life and I still have new things to see and do. Couldn’t recommend London more. You can always live a little ways out in one of the London boroughs since the transport network is so great (most places can get to central in less than 20 minutes). There is also the potential of university halls (similar to dorms) - which vary in quality.

I’m interested in a masters in Transportation Engineering or Civil Engineering with a focus on Transportation. I didn’t see the joint degree when I looked into UCL but I’ll look into that again!

I currently have a 3.5 but I took some classes pass/fail (which we were given the option to do because of COVID). I’m still a third year student so I won’t be graduating until Spring 2022, so I have time to hopefully still improve my grades and figure everything else out haha. And hopefully COVID will be over by then. I’ll also do more research on UCL.

Thank you so much for your response and for all of your help! I really appreciate it.

This is the course run in conjunction with UCL: MSc Transport | Study | Imperial College London. It’s probably not what you’re after but just in case.

No worries. Best of luck! I think your grades will likely be fine considering you went to Berkley. Which I assume they’ll consider as ‘selective’. Annoyingly they don’t give a list of what schools they consider selective. But if Berkley isn’t on that mystical list I’d be rather surprised. You’ve also got heaps of time.

Ah yeah unfortunately tuition is quite expensive, but I think still cheaper compared to basically any school that’s not in California for me lol. I agree that some prices are criminal.

I’ve always wanted to visit London and have heard of how vibrant it is. Hopefully I’ll at least get to visit and stay for a while even if I don’t study there :slight_smile:

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Thank you!!

Oh most definitely, London is a great city to visit, live, work and study in! It’s not California and wind swept beaches. But there’s something to be said about the history and culture of the place.

University used to be free in England until relatively recently actually. Like some parts of the the mainland (Europe, I mean), we used to hold the belief that education is not a commodity. Sadly, that has changed. But for home students fees for undergrad are subsidised by the government and hence capped at £9,000 a year for 3 years. So around $12,000 a year - around £27,000 $36,000 for the full course. So considerably cheaper than the US but it still hurts knowing that only a few years ago it was capped at £3k a year and a few years before, in the 90s, free.

Either way, I hope that it all works out! Best of luck, mate (as we say here haha)

I have heard of how cheap tuition is in some European countries like Germany. That’s unfortunate that it’s increased that much in the UK.

Well thank you again for your help and insight!

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