The Rise of the Summer School

By G. John Cole

For years, our culture has treated summer school as a place for slackers to catch up or for nerds to race ahead. But now, emerging generations of students are engaging with the idea that learning experiences in vacation time aren't just useful – they're stimulating and fun, too.

Some Gen-Z students are using summer school as a chance to follow their passion while they concentrate on more career-intensive programs during regular term-time.

Others are aware that universities and employers alike expect their recruits to be knowledgeable and adaptable in a world with fast-evolving industries and career paths. Picking up a new subject or learning about the latest developments in a particular field can be a valuable way to edge ahead of the competition.

And yes, others are using it as a chance to make up extra credits. China, for example, offers an ever-increasing range of programs targeted at Chinese students in US universities who are looking for a chance to fast-track to graduation.

As ever, students who don’t get the grades or attendances they need are also putting in the hours during vacation time. But with modern pedagogic approaches, a summer spent in the classroom does not feel like time wasted.

What’s so exciting about summer school?

Plenty. A number of institutions and organizations are working hard to cater to the rising number of students who want a quality, engaging learning experience during their summer break.

ISSOS is a diverse, prestige summer school initiative for 13-18 year-olds, taking place between the universities of St Andrews and Cambridge in the UK and Yale in the States. They cater to multiple language needs, and keep class numbers small, with no more than 10% of each cohort hailing from any one nationality. Their Youth Leadership program is an excellent way for older teenagers to learn about communication, responsibility, and team-building before they leave the relative security of their high school years.

SOAS at the University of London offers a range of credited and uncredited summer courses for university-age students. A good example of the former is their Research Awareness: Design and Methodology program, which doesn't require prior qualifications in this area but provides skills that are transferable across many industries, roles, and tasks. SOAS also offers summer courses that run hand-in-hand with English language support programs.

Scotland’s International Summer School for Teens (ISSFT) safeguards that special sense of summer by mixing entertainment, activities, and day trips with academic programs that attract a diverse range of high school-age students.

And the summer school at Italy’s University of Pisa is a perfect setting for undergraduates and post-grads to getting a fascinating primer on archaeology, heritage, or Italian Language and Culture – and pick up precious ECTS credits along the way.

What are the benefits of hosting summer schools?

It all sounds wonderful for the students. But what’s in it for the institutions?

Forward thinking universities are experiencing firsthand how summer schools can boost future admissions by giving students a first-hand taste of life at the university. Many students who attend summer school may often consider the same institution when contemplating further study.

Many universities host summer schools because:

  • They are a great way to attract international students who may be more willing to commit to a summer in an unfamiliar destination, rather than a multi-year program; if they like what they see, they’re more likely to enroll for a full degree.
  • It’s an opportunity to strengthen co-operation with partner universities and local businesses
  • The institution plays an important role in the local community while also expanding its international profile

Establishing and promoting a summer school within a university requires forethought and hard work. But the fruits of this labor are enjoyed by students and schools alike.

Why not explore the possibility of transforming your institution into the ultimate summer destination for learners?

Topics: International Student Recruitment International Education

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