The United World Colleges
A couple of months ago, I came back from Santa Fe’ after witnessing the incredible spectacle of a Salman Rushdie speech, only to find out Sayed, from Afghanistan, burnt Rushdie’s books once the fatwa was declared more than a decade ago. When Hamas won the elections, I walked three doors over to ask Mohannad what the situation in Palestine was like. Kenya was recently mired in a constitutional crisis, and Brian from Nairobi gave me an in-depth analysis of the situation on the ground.
This, is what the United World Colleges are like; 200 students from over 90 countries in a setting that facilitates cultural, political, and socio-economic exchange. I’ve only been in the UWC-USA, New Mexico, for about 5 months, and my world-view has experienced an incredible shift. Imagine, walking to the cafeteria and sitting at a table with students from 6 other countries, discussing the latest elections results in Liberia, with each region bringing a completely different mode of thought, or, staying up till 2 in the morning discussing the virtues and pitfalls of Marxism. It’s all very intellectually stimulating.
The United World Colleges originated in the ideas of the educationalist Kurt Hahn in the 1950’s and the first UWC, Atlantic College, opened in Wales in 1962.Today, there are twelve UWC’s all over the world, one in the UK, Singapore, Canada, Swaziland, the USA, Italy, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Norway, Costa Rica, India and Bosnia. This coming year, Costa Rica and Bosnia will be enrolling their first batch. Each college has its own distinctive character and strengths, but all share a common mission. The headquarters of the UWC movement is in London.
Kurt Hahn initially founded the UWC’s with the interest of easing Cold War tensions by targeting the youth of the world. Since its inception, Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, and Prince Charles have been presidents of the UWC movement. Currently , Queen Noor of Jordan is the President, and Nelson Mandela is the Honorary President.
The UWC’s, with the exception of Simon Bolivar UWC of Agriculture, offer students aged 16-19 a pre-university education based on the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. The Simon Bolivar College in Venezuela on the other hand, offers a three year tertiary agricultural education and training for students aged 18-21. The IB is accepted all over the world as a rigorous and challenging program, with a focus on developing well rounded students.
I applied for this opportunity right after receiving my SPM results, and am currently studying in the Armand Hammer United World College of the American West on a 50% scholarship. The value of scholarship ranges from a full one for certain colleges to a partial one for others. Applications are sent to National Committees, with one in each country, and the selection process is coordinated by its members. The cost of studying here for me is around RM 40k a year. The general worry, as was mine, for students applying to a program like this is: the UWC offers only a Pre-U education at a much higher cost. What about my Undergrad studies? Where am I to get the money for that?
These questions haunted me for weeks before I arrived. Rest assured, almost all UWC students get into reputable universities or colleges with very generous financial aid. Many colleges also give special preference to UWC students and also provide scholarships specifically for UWC graduates. My countrymates, Eng Han(UWC-USA) and Xiang Ling(Pearson UWC), were recently accepted into Dartmouth College and Harvard University respectively with generous grants and scholarships. Shelby Davis, one of the biggest donors to the UWC movement , has also established the Davis Scholarship for all UWC students. If you NEED financial aid, there is a list of schools where the Davis fund will provide you with $10 000 for fees, making universities and colleges more willing to accept, and financially support your education. In addition, there are five schools where Davis will provide full need-based financial aid: Princeton, Middlebury, Colby, Wellesley, and College of the Atlantic. The Davis Scholarship is need based, and takes into consideration your parents income + assets. That being said, most middle-class Malaysian students are eligible for this scholarship.
Financial and academic aspects aside, just being in a UWC is an experience you’ll never forget. Lifelong friendships across cultural, religious, and ethnic lines are fostered, and, I assure you, your knowledge of the world will increase dramatically. So, visit The Official UWC website for further information on the history and mission of the UWC movement.
For information regarding application forms and deadlines, contact the Malaysian National Committee.
BRIGADIER GENERAL ANIM HARUN(retd)
Malaysia UWC National Committee
Phone: +603 78805455/66
Fax:+603 7880 5477
Nithiya is currently a first year at UWC-USA, New Mexico.
Message from the secretariat's office: deadline for application has been extended till March 27. Kindly contact Puan Dina from the Malaysian National Committee Office for more details.
Updated on 21 March 2006