The List

The Harvard of Hong Kong, and 8 Other Great International Schools

Didn’t get into the college of your dreams? Don’t want to bankrupt your parents? Here’s where to go.

It’s the nightmare of every high school senior: You applied to Harvard, MIT, and the University of Chicago, and now your only plans for the fall are extra shifts at the local Starbucks. But as FP's Charles Kenny writes, before you send Mom and Dad to the poor house for the $40,000 per year tuition at a middle-tier U.S. school, broaden your horizons to some of the world’s best bastions of higher learning -- available for a fraction of the price. Why languish in Comp. Lit. 101 at a university that doesn’t thrill you when you could be roaming the halls of the Harvard of Hong Kong? Here are some of the best schools abroad, tailored to whatever clique you belonged to in high school.

The All-Around All-Stars

University of Hong Kong: As the territory's oldest university, HKU has more than 20,500 students from 80 different countries, and over 45 percent of the staff comes from leading universities overseas. Ranked above renowned American universities like George Washington and Notre Dame at a fraction of the price, HKU’s students tend to end up in the upper echelons of their chosen field. Almost 80 percent of its undergrads and 85 percent of its post-graduates are employed within a year of graduating -- figures that should make many U.S. university deans green with envy.


The Next Alan Greenspans

University of Melbourne: The University of Melbourne is consistently listed at the top of world rankings. Its staff includes a prestigious roster of international scholars, and its location and international focus gives its graduates access to emerging Asian markets and industries. Recently, the university's research programs have partnered with IBM to create a new development lab that will allow it to develop better responses to natural disasters.


The Free-Thinkers

University of Cape Town: Let’s say you want a school that nurtures creativity, allows you to design your own majors, and gives you the freedom to pursue your own interests -- but don’t have the GPA to get into some of New England’s more free-wheeling liberal arts colleges. South Africa's University of Cape Town, where "each person contributes their unique blend of knowledge and thinking," may be the place for you.

With students from more than 100 countries, Cape Town keeps an emphasis on social engagement and democratic citizenship. UCT has a leading African Climate and Development Initiative that focuses on building research capacity in Africa, as well as numerous student-led activist groups. It also apparently boasts quality local wine and views of the picturesque Table Mountain.


The Tech Geeks

Zurich Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich): Sure, 76 Nobel Prize laureates have been affiliated with MIT, but ETH Zurich has a pretty good trump card: This is where Albert Einstein started his career. Consistently ranked the top university in continental Europe, ETH Zurich focuses on research and development in engineering and natural sciences. The degrees ETH offers range from architecture to neural science to nanosystems -- recent projects include the invention of an infrared cocaine detector and the exploration of oceanic anoxic dead zones.

And there’s no doubt that its graduates are well-trained: Amid the economic turmoil of the past five years, ETH grads have founded 110 successful spin off companies. Given the situation in Europe these days, that’s no small feat.


The Tree-Huggers

University of Tokyo: Can you list the names of islands already in danger from global warming? The University of Tokyo's Asian Program for the Incubation of Environmental Leaders can help you learn to save the planet. The program, which emphasizes holistic understandings of environmental issues, includes hands-on field research time. Recent workshops have included the discussion of appropriate environmental education, innovative water recycling uses, and transboundary resources sharing.

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The Party People

University of Barcelona: There may not be any jobs in Spain, where the youth unemployment rate is over 50 percent, but the night life is still alive and well. Located in Spain’s second-largest city, the University of Barcelona belongs to a culture that appreciates 11:00 pm dinners and afternoon siestas. Students live near some of the best luxury shopping in the world in the country that invented tapas. Barcelona is also one of the oldest universities on the planet, and the library holds about 2 million volumes, in case you want to do some reading in your spare time.


The Cowboy Scholars

Co-op at University of British Columbia: For some students, the classroom itself is just too restricting. Co-operative education represents a formalized program that combines academics with relevant work experience. The Vancouver-based school has an extensive network for the students to draw on, as these British Columbia students alternate study and work terms in the field of their choice. UBC specializes in forestry, kinesiology, and engineering, but every student's experience is different -- the common denominator is that all co-op students have the opportunity to graduate with demonstrated hard skills. Sheena Bell, for example, spent four work terms with a wide range of organizations, but landed a job upon graduation as a researcher at the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.


The Artistes

Cardiff School of Art and Design: Maybe you’ve already earned a reputation for berets and other artistic frippery, but the Rhode Island School of Design’s yearly tuition of more than $57,000 would break the bank. You can head to Cardiff, one of Europe's best art schools, for only about $15,000 per year. Whether you're interested in furniture design, welding, or textiles, you can find it here. Cardiff’s degree programs, the school boasts, "will take you to amazing places." Few other schools include among their official opportunities the chance to "maybe even fall in love – who knows."

The Jocks

University of Sao Paulo: Located in a city of more than 20 million people, USP is almost a city itself -- it boasts four hospitals and four museums, and welcomes half a million visitors a year. Its 86,000 students are best known for their skilled research -- comprising 45 percent of all research published in Brazil -- and true to their South American roots, a passion for fútbol and a successful soccer team. USP is located in a city that has even invented its own form of the beautiful game, known as Futebol de Salao, a faster-paced contest played with a smaller ball, to build technical skills.


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The List

Internationally Supercharged

The U.N. has a long history of comic heroes and villians.

The U.N's appearance in comics and fiction has been long and colorful -- and often cartoonish. From The Simpsons (which mocked the global organization as a dysfunctional do-nothing) to the Animatrix (the prequel to the Wachowski brothers' film series, The Matrix, in which the U.N. signed away humanity's collective will to a new set of machine overlords) it's been a checkered history.

More frequently, it's the United Nations in need of a savior. Foreign Policy's Colum Lynch details the escapades of the latest group of superheroes to grace Turtle Bay -- in DC Comic's reincarnated Justice League International -- but the history of heroes working with the U.N. goes much further back.


In 1965, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby developed the Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-enforcement Division, also known by the convenient acronym S.H.I.E.L.D. Lead by the gritty and battle-hardened Colonel Fury, they battled their evil rival, HYDRA, commanded by the former Nazi Baron Strucker. The writers note that S.H.I.E.L.D has the full backing of the U.N. General Assembly for its operations. And perhaps to be in close proximity to Turtle Bay, the organization's headquarters were located on the Upper East Side of New York, with easy access to a helipad, among other technological amenities.

Halo Series

The "Master Chief" in Bungie's best-selling video game franchise, Halo, may be a hero for millions of gamers blasting away at aliens, but the super-soldier only takes orders from the U.N. of the future. In Halo, the U.N. has evolved into the Unified Earth Government, a supranational regime boasting its own interplanetary force, the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) tasked with ensuring stability in the solar system. The back story, covered in great length in the Halo Encyclopedia, details the creation of the UNSC following the interplanetary war, a 4-year conflict between the U.N. and rebel groups lead by the neo-communist villian, Vladimir Koslov. The U.N. of today, however, is a long way from having its own internal rapid reaction force -- and forget it being space-capable anytime soon.

Deus EX Series

Prophetically, the Deus EX video game series -- launched in 2000 -- opens with a catastophic terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Set in a cyberpunk mid-21st future, the U.N. is forced to respond to attacks on Chicago and New York's Statue of Liberty. The protagonist, J.C. Denton, is an agent of the United Nations Anti-Terrorism Coalition, an agency responsible for finding and eliminating terrorist threats. Through the game, Denton uncovers sinister forces at work -- the global body is actually being manipulated by the evil Majestic 12, an Illuminati-like organization conspiring to control the world through technology and finance. In 2005, the real U.N. established the United Nations Counter Terrorism Task Force, though we don't have confirmation if they are using genetically enhanced super-agents yet -- or are under the nefarious influence of Wall Street black hands.

The U.N. Heroes
In 1993, indie comic book publisher Gauntlet Comics published the first (and only) volume of U.N. Force, detailing the adventures of the global body's rapid reaction force -- something like peacekeepers on steroids. As the creator, Brent Carpenter, explained in an interview with CNN, the team was tasked with fixing problems that "went beyond the scope of any single government," including major geopolitical issues such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Tiananmen Square massacre, and terrorism. Eerily enough, the first issue of the comic predicted an attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. The team was composed of 25 members from 19 nations,  many from regional powers, including, Lotus (India), Fusion (South Africa), and Mother Russia. The creators even included maps so that readers would be able to easily follow the globe-trotting escapades.