Here's the question: is university a sound investment? I'll be clear, since I know that this situation and this questions are experienced by many people. I'm going to face very soon the choice of where to go attending my Msc courses and obviously, after having decided which universities suit my tendencies better, financial considerations come on the way. I don't want to hear considerations like "yeah,it's all about your dreams, if you really want to go there then it's a worthy investment" because let's face it, even with your dream job life with 1000£ a month isn't easy. I'm not even complaining about how this world can be elitarist due to the high fees and life costs, I'm just pondering the best opportunities. The choice is between staying here in my country where costs are way lower or trying for the upgrade in the best (and expensive) foreign university (namely I'm now considering Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial and Eth). I was wondering then if the 20000\50000£ investment is justified by a better salary and effective enhanced working chances? And in case of the decision to pursue an academic career, is it amortised in a reasonable amount of time?

Has someone experienced this path or similar one and can tell me something about it?

Just to give some feedback: I'm from one of the good italian universities and with grades making possible a decent (hopefully) prospect of career even here, either in or outside the academic world.

EDIT since it might be useful, I'm studying mathematics and planning to have my master in applied mathematics. The options are to get a specialization in financial mathematics or a general applied mathematics Msc that could yield to further academic continuance or to job in industry.

  • Presumably this depends on so many factors: degree, your alternatives, where you plan to work afterwards, the nature of your career plans. Are you asking the very general question or did you want to frame it in terms of a particular degree, job plan, etc. – Jeromy Anglim Feb 26 '16 at 0:21
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    The universities you have listed have a great deal of funding/scholarships available. Including for international/EU students. Especially for research based degrees in STEM subjects. You should apply to every scholarship you qualify for. Note that the deadlines for scholarships are often much much earlier then the admission application deadlines. – mg4w Feb 26 '16 at 12:24
  • Yes I was considering this.. As I said in the other comments, I'll try to get one and then I'll ponder with all the cards on the table – Nicolò Feb 26 '16 at 12:27

Ok, I have answer to this as I did finish all my higher education in the UK, and still living/working here.

Money Buys you a Place But Not a Future: Yes, you can spend money and get to very decent universities; but:

Exceptions: The Oxford, Cambridge, and Edinburgh are very wealthy and well known and funded, so they don't care much about anyone's money to be honest; however this might differ based on your field. But, the general rule, don't count on getting a place over there by flashing money.

University: Not so many universities currently looking for hire from postdoc level, yet alone PhD level. There is a mayhem over this, just talk to an academic living in the UK.

Conclusion Back to your question, no by paying extraordinary amount of money you will not get a better financial future compare to finishing your studies within Italy.

  • thanks, very clear. Maybe you misundertood me though. The investment I was talking about isn't to get INTO the university, for me the investment is the payiment of the fees and the living costs. I can't afford these, let alone paying to get in (which I wouldn't do in any case). What about repaying in case of being luck and getting to a Phd and going on with academic career? Do you know anything of the environment? – Nicolò Feb 26 '16 at 0:49
  • And sorry for being insistent but do you really think that an external employer would look at my Padua Msc the same way he would consider a, say, Imperial College Msc? – Nicolò Feb 26 '16 at 0:50
  • @Nicolò Yes it does not differ that much, and you will save loads of money! – o-0 Feb 26 '16 at 0:54
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    My take: Get out of there with the least possible debt/expenditure, take advantage of all the internships, research, etc. you can get your hands on, and network fiercely with the uni. faculty for recommendations. Regardless of the institutions reputation, if you can pull the above off you should be for all intents and purposes set for success. (applies broadly whether you're grad or undergrad) – CKM Feb 26 '16 at 1:18
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    In fact the idea that's coming up to me is to apply for the universities I'm interested in and then decide whether to go or not mostly based on the scolarships I get.. if all goes wrong (meaning, no one decide I'm worth some money) I'll have to ponder very well, considering the fact I wouldn't like being economically insecure/dependent till my 30s.. – Nicolò Feb 26 '16 at 1:25

In short I believe this all depends on which country you would like to work in and what sort of industry you would like to aim towards. I can't really comment about academia jobs as I have little experience with them, though I would edge towards the view of: the greater the prestige the greater the opportunities.

Speaking from experience within the UK job market outside academia related jobs however, I would say that having a prestigious name on your CV underneath your education section will certainly help you to get your foot in the door (get noticed), and these universities do have great industry related relationships that can help you even more to get noticed, but when it comes to business line interviews/assessment centers/competency based interviews/aptitude tests, solely having Oxford University on your CV/Resume will not help you in the slightest and it will be your skill and ability that is being focused on here.

It is worth pointing out that I personally believe studying outside your home nation (after undergrad) gives you a broader range of learning and perspective that will surely not go unnoticed by any prospective employers, regardless of the prestige of the foreign university you attended.

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    Good point of view.. it's just that while outside you can find a salary adequate to your abilities, I know for sure that here in Italy the prospectives for applied (not to talk of the pure) mathematicians are just ending up programming all day for software industries (and then wasting your former efforts and studies) or doing a poorly paid job... And it's sad – Nicolò Feb 26 '16 at 11:22

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