Southbank International School is one of the leaders when it comes to the IB Diploma, but what does it offer students? A way to receive a rounded education and be admitted to a top university, writes Southbank International School Executive Principal, Graham Lacey

Question: Why, as recent research suggests, are proportionately more IB Diploma applicants made conditional offers to top UK universities than their peers applying with alternative qualifications? Statistics, as we all know, can be skewed to support any argument – which in my case, in answer to this question, it is because IB applicants are better qualified.

By ‘qualified’, I do not just mean in the narrow academic sense, although close analysis of the content of IB diploma courses identifies an academic rigour and substance missing from equivalent university entry qualifications. The currency of diploma IB grades has also not been devalued by the phenomenon of ‘grade inflation’ which has debased the coinage of many countries’ national qualifications systems. Grade inflation aside, the IB assessment system is finely calibrated so can effectively discriminate between, for example, the very good, and the outstanding, student. 


Southbank International School offers a well rounded education

But it is the qualities within the IB Diploma which cannot be measured or clearly identified which, arguably, are the most valuable. So valuable, in fact, that some universities have been bold enough to state publicly their preference for IB diploma applicants. Whilst some schools may have established their reputation on teaching their students to pass exams, those offering the IB Diploma have no option but to educate them – in the widest sense of the term. The diploma is more than a qualification; it is an educational programme, underpinned by a philosophy enshrined in the IB’s mission statement and Learner Profile. The Extended Essay of 4000 words develops independent learning, and Theory of Knowledge (a high grade critical thinking course) teaches students to question the assumptions on which their education, and indeed lives, may have been based. 

If you choose to approach the IB Diploma from a pragmatic, even commercial, perspective, it should be identified as offering a gold card to university entrance – in the UK, North America, and many other countries across the globe. From a more principled, even idealistic, standpoint the IB Diploma allows me to put my hand on my heart and promote it as a programme whose educational value is second to none. Rather than considering the question “should I study the IB diploma?’’ perhaps better ask “is there a good reason why I should not?”


The IB Diploma encourages critical thinking

Graham Lacey is Executive Principal at Southbank International School – find out more at

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