↑ comment by Strangeattractor ·
2016-07-25T12:47:43.612Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Yes, there are differences.
I talked to a person who was hiring for tech jobs in Silicon Valley, and he said that the Ivy League schools in the United States get a much better quality of training than other United States schools in the fields of engineering and computer science. For example, the Ivy League schools would have 3 hour exams where you have to show how you arrived at an answer as well as the answer. Most of the other schools had 1 hour multiple choice exams.
The situation is different in other countries. In Canada, unlike in the US, engineering is a regulated profession. That means certain types of designs have to be approved by a Professional Engineer. There are rules about how to become a professional engineer. One path to becoming one involves graduating from an accredited program at a university. So every engineering program at a university is monitored by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board. No matter which university you go to in Canada, you'll get the 3 hour non-multiple choice exams, and very good training.
For this reason, the person at the tech company liked to hire Canadians, since they have the good training, but not the entitled attitude of the Ivy League graduates. But he considered Ivy League graduates. He wouldn't even consider the non-Ivy League ones, unless they showed some other way that they actually have the skills and training, since they didn't get it at school.
Another difference between Harvard, MIT, etc. and the typical Canadian university is that Harvard and MIT have huge endowment funds and many wealthy alumni and donors, so they have access to a lot more resources than most universities. Like about 1000x more money. The MIT endowment fund reached $13.5 billion in 2015.
I also know someone who went to Harvard for a Masters degree in political science, and she said that after getting a degree from Harvard, she was taken a lot more seriously. People listened to what she said, and deferred to her, in a way that they didn't before she could say that she went to Harvard. So it seems to make a difference in public policy and government work.
Another difference between universities can be their intellectual property policy. The University of Waterloo, in Canada, has the most respectful intellectual property policy that I know of, among universities. Simply, if you do research or work there, it's yours, and you can use it in a startup company if you wish. Many students and professors do this. The University of Waterloo is well known for many technology spinoff companies. I know of one prof who doesn't even publish journal articles any more, he just documents his work with patents, and then uses them in his startup. This is seen as adding prestige to the institution, unlike in some other universities, where there's a bit more disdain for commercialization. The co-op program at the University of Waterloo also means that students get real-world experience and bring that back to the classroom, and is another reason for the more positive attitude to collaboration with industry.
The University of Waterloo's intellectual property policy is even more respectful and individualistic than the one at Stanford, which is also a university known for its spinoffs.
Oxford has more name recognition in North America than Cambridge. Within the UK, they are seen as mostly equivalent, to the point that "Oxford and/or Cambridge" is often shortened to "Oxbridge". It is easier to get work in government in the UK with an Oxbridge education.
Also, the people you meet at university are more likely to end up in powerful positions if you go to one of the big name universities. So the alumni network becomes more valuable.
It depends on what you want to study and what you want to do afterward. There are some fields where it wouldn't matter much.
Graduate education is a different matter. With some exceptions, like my friend who went to Harvard for political science that I mentioned above, it doesn't really matter much what school or department you go to for graduate school. The most important things will be
1) What did you do?
2) Who did you work with?
The rest is almost irrelevant. Finding a good supervisor who you can get along with, and who will help your career, is the priority when choosing graduate school.
I'm most familiar with Canada, and a bit with the US and the UK. I don't know the situation in other countries.
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