In April of 1155 AD, after a successful invasion of northern Italy in which his army vanquished city after city, the legendary ruler Frederick Barbarossa received yet another crown upon his head.
Barbarossa was already King of Burgundy, King of Germany, AND Holy Roman Emperor. But on top of all of those titles, he was then proclaimed King of Italy.
Italy was like a wonderland for Barbarossa; he had grown up in a warrior family in southern Germany, and as a child he never learned how to read. The only thing he knew how to do was fight, and war was his primary life experience.
But everything was different in Italy.
While Germany was still plunged in the Dark Ages, Italy had a prosperous economy. Germans fought each other for scraps. Italians started businesses, traded, and invested.
Barbarossa had never seen anything like it. But he was immediately struck by the potential of the ‘Italian way’, and he even endeavored to improve upon it… starting with education.
So in 1158, shortly after his coronation, he granted a formal charter to a school in Bologna that had already been attracting students from all over Europe; this school became known as a university, from the Latin word universitas, meaning ‘community’ or ‘society’ in that context.
This makes the University of Bologna the oldest in the world. But sadly it didn’t take long for the university to lose its way.
The students quickly organized themselves into unions, known as ‘guilds’, and became a powerful force over the university’s administration. The guilds organized boycotts of ‘unsatisfactory’ professors, and in many cases ended some people’s careers if they didn’t like what the professor taught.
Teachers were even required to place a fixed sum on deposit at the beginning of the academic year, from which the student guild leaders would deduct any fines and penalties they saw fit for the teacher’s individual transgressions.
This might sound strangely familiar to today’s university system, at least in the United States.
Rather than being true institutions of higher learning, where ideas are embraced and debated on their merits, students have once again commandeered control of their universities and turned them into cesspools of censorship.
Professors who offend the delicate sensibilities of their students, or who offer heretical ideas on biology, medicine, history, climate science, and more, are routinely canceled, fired, and ruined.
Today professors of medicine are afraid to mention when medical conditions are more prevalent in males or females, for fear of being canceled by their woke students.
They cannot discuss how heart attack early warning signs differ between men and women. Or how male and female kidneys process drugs differently, which affects proper dosage.
On some college campuses, you see signs asking if students have been a victim of free speech. Apparently hearing dissenting views is literal violence.
What’s even more extraordinary is how much students pay for their own censorship.
It’s commonplace for total university spending to easily exceed tens of thousands of dollars per year; that’s why the average student debt in the Land of the Free is roughly $40,000, and for graduate students that figure can quickly rise beyond $100,000.
This means that, for most 18-year old kids, university is the biggest financial decision they’ll be faced with by that point in their lives.
Going to university means they’ll end up spending north of $100k over a four-year period and be saddled with a mountain of debt.
It’s ludicrous to expect most 18-year-olds to be capable of making an decision of that magnitude.
Most people wouldn’t just hand an inexperienced teenager $100k and expect multiple years of responsible decisions.
Yet somehow this has become the norm in America’s higher education system: let a teenager make a life-altering six-figure investment decision so they can spend four years being indoctrinated by a radical ideology and end up with a certificate of dubious value.
I would humbly point out that there are other options.
Remember, the world is a big place. And no matter what you’re looking for, whether cheaper retirement, lower taxes, better healthcare, compelling investments, etc. you can probably find new options if you expand your thinking internationally.
That goes for higher education as well.
There are some really wonderful universities outside of the United States that don’t engage in this woke censorship nonsense. And by comparison their tuition is remarkably cheaper.
ETH Zurich in Switzerland is one example of a high quality education at a bargain price.
ETH is a public university focused on science and technology, and it consistently ranks as one of the top schools in all of Europe.
They offer renowned graduate degrees in fields such as quantum engineering, cybersecurity, robotics, data science, nanotechnology, computational biology, and many, many more. And most of these courses are taught in English.
Best of all, tuition is just 730 Swiss francs per semester (less than $800).
Many public universities in Switzerland also accept international students, without significantly increasing the costs of tuition.
For example, the University of Zurich charges undergraduates 720 francs per semester, and charges a mere 500 francs for international students.
That’s about $2,500 per year for international students to attend the University of Zurich.
Norway also has interesting educational options. In fact Norway provides free university at certain public institutions, even to foreign students. And many offer instruction in English.
For example, Nord University in the picturesque town of Bodø teaches English undergraduate programs in Biology (Bachelor of Science), Film and TV Production, Games and Entertainment Technology, and more. It also offers English language Masters degrees in Biosciences, Business, and Global Management.
International students who graduate are also granted a 1-year residence permit in Norway to give them the opportunity to find a job in the country and remain longer should they choose to do so.
Now, my point here is not to provide a comprehensive review of all the free and inexpensive university options in the world, but really to demonstrate that there are plenty of options… as long as you expand your thinking.
And, for an up-and-coming 18-year old, a lesson in thinking globally and independently might be among the most valuable of all.