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UK universities open vistas on the world

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Education has always been top on the priority list for Jewish parents. Today, the climate of chaos at South African universities has created a scenario which clearly identifies the issue as even more pressing due to the unpredictable mayhem that is taking place.
by SHIRA DRUION | Nov 16, 2016

A game plan is clearly in order as parents lay out their options for how best to provide their children with an education that will enable them to enter into the high level work force as competent, skilled and on an equal footing with their international colleagues.

There are many reasons students choose to study overseas, including exposure to the international circuit of the world’s best brains and intellectuals.

The United Kingdom has proven to be a viable option for many students over the years but the exorbitant costs have made this option prohibitive unless students obtain bursaries or have parents who are willing to spend tens of thousands on university fees and living expenses.

Former Davidian, Boaz Valkin who now lives in London works at Prodigy Finance, a pioneer in community-based lending for international students. Prodigy provides educational loans to international post-graduate students at top-ranked universities. They also seek to connect the world's top students with alumni, institutional and qualified private investors.

To date, Prodigy has processed loans of more than $180 million and funded over 5 000 students from 115 nationalities with repayment rates in excess of 99 per cent. Loans are typically offered on a seven or 10 year basis, with no penalties/fees for early repayment. Depending on the university, it can lend for tuition costs and/or living expenses and they send funds directly to universities.

Prodigy is an international lender, headquartered in London but also has a big office in Cape Town. They have lent to over 100 South Africans to date, at business schools like INSEAD, Columbia and Harvard.

These top universities cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to attend and local banks are often unwilling/unable to provide loans.

Brett Pollack, a former learner at King David Victory Park, did his undergraduate studies at Wits and UCT, completing a BSc at Wits and LLB at UCT. He then spent four and a half years in the government judiciary and corporate sector. However, his passion for Africa and African studies motivated him to study in London at the renowned School of Oriental and African Studies at SOAS University where he recently graduated with a masters in African studies.

“As an attorney, I was disillusioned with the law as a tool for social cohesion, economic change and Pan African unity, all of which were required for the betterment of South African societies. I was also desperate to study African philosophy as a means of making sense of my own African identity and Afrocentrism.”

Pollack says some of the highlights of an exceptional year included meeting and being exposed to students from the global village as well as embarking on an enriching and intellectually rigorous journey.

“I was able to pursue my dream to further my studies by being awarded the Chevening Scholarship, housed in and funded by the United Kingdom Foreign Wealth office. The cost of my course was £17 000 which was fully covered in addition to a monthly living expenses stipend.”

The Chevening Scholarship is awarded to students who demonstrate a desire to study abroad in order to obtain skills from world-class universities and institutions, with the intention of returning to South Africa and imparting change and improvement, in their respective fields.

Gina Itzikowitz, former head girl of King David Victory Park also joined the ranks of international graduates after having recently graduated from Oxford with an MSc in Global Health Science (Biostatistics and Epidemiology).

Itzikowitz, qualified at Wits as a medical doctor. She says: “I had always dreamed of studying at Oxford. I studied for this degree because I wanted to up-skill my medical research capacity so that I would be able to combine clinical medicine with clinical research when I return to specialise in paediatrics at UCT.”

She too was awarded a fully-funded Chevening Scholarship.

“I hope to maintain strong connections and valuable networks with my colleagues and lecturers at Oxford to collaborate with them to improve healthcare research and to increase opportunity in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Studying overseas has opened doors and opportunities that I would never have had the privilege of being exposed to without coming to study in the UK. Everything was an adventure and I learned more about the world through the diversity of people I met, than I had in all my years of life prior to studying abroad.”

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