In many ways study abroad implies a leap into the unknown. This is part of the excitement of a new culture waiting to be discovered but it also carries the potential for problems.
To avoid these problems it is necessary to identify the characteristics of any program; compare like for like; and ask your Study Abroad Adviser to find out electronically through the international study abroad community about the real reputation of any Program you are considering. You should NEVER neglect to do this! We believe we offer the most integrated, the most supportive, and the highest quality program available today in Oxford at any price. Period. But establish this independently, don’t just take our word for it! The key areas where we differ from other programs are the following.
We act solely on behalf of US accredited colleges and universities, both public and private. This means that all credits earned are readily transferred back instead of having to be “brokered” or “negotiated”. More crucially it means that you are not earning credits which are simply being “recommended” by a non-accredited organization, profit-making or otherwise. It also means that in most cases you can take any financial aid with you. Finally, it ensures a high level of quality control. OPUS is the only program in Oxford in this position and it is the only program to be regularly evaluated by the U.S. Commission on Higher Education. Report’s Conclusion.
In recent years there has been an expansion of US students coming to Oxford without a support system: students are attached to an Oxford college without any on-site program office or backup structure to handle their needs. This may well suit some but it is not recommended for the majority of students who invariably need ongoing assistance, guidance and support, particularly living in a foreign environment. At the other extreme are programs which utilize a very large number of staff for a basic support structure and inevitably charge a great deal more to fund staff salaries. We believe we have struck the right balance by having a competent and diligent hands-on support structure which is efficient and effective rather than excessive and invasive.
Beyond the concept of the support structure, we run a tightly controlled organization, efficiently and at low cost. By making use of the infrastructure of the US institutions associated with us and through working closely with the Oxford colleges, our office and other costs are kept low and there is a complete absence of wastage of any kind.
Over the years we have built a near flawless reputation in Oxford. Crucially, every Oxford college we have ever been associated with in the past we retain an excellent relationship with today. This should not be assumed to be the case with all programs and indeed one of the questions an informed applicant might seek to establish. Furthermore, our presence at each of the Oxford colleges with which we work is a substantial presence, not a mere token. This ensures that there is no concentration of our students, especially from the same home university, at any one Oxford college. The key question to ask is how many students a Program has at each of the Oxford colleges with which it works.
We are especially proud of the detailed procedures and systems we have developed over the years to ensure that the entire operation runs smoothly at every level and glitches of any kind are minimized. We are of course only human and the unexpected will and does occur. But from the day of the group airport pick-up to the day our students leave Oxford; from the deliberation over the housing assignment to the meticulous planning of weekend trips there is an underlying harmony which helps our students feel at home quickly and begin making the most that Oxford can offer. Inevitably there is a fundamental philosophy at work and over 94% of our participants attend on the basis of personal recommendation. The same philosophy ensures that our housing is of the highest grade possible, well cleaned, comfortable and functional, and that funding is carefully applied.
Participating on OPUS means you are participating through an accredited university so you can be sure you are truly getting value for money, rarely the case with the most expensive programs which we are not! Corners are not cut: housing is exceptional and not sub-standard, tutorials are one-on-one and not paired or in triples, organization and over-all control is first rate. These are the hidden qualities of a solid program, discovered only by speaking with those who have participated. Study abroad is a once in a life time experience, especially in Oxford, and it is worth trying to achieve the best.
Each participant on the program, despite a participation of 80+ every year, is given individual attention and respect, and there is a genuine desire across the board to advance each student’s career in every way possible, beyond the call of duty and well beyond the period of participation. This intangible benefit, difficult of measurement yet vital, is the “confidence factor” to which genuine loyalty and affection from past students, their exit evaluations, ongoing contact with us, and regular re-unions are all testimony. There is an OPUS family, of which we are proud.