Leaving on a jet plane
The urge to explore higher educational scope in myriad disciplines has been reinforced by many institutions largely out of sync with the volume and needs of young people, especially women.
So, what is it about these courses that have grabbed eyeballs all these years and where lakhs of Indian students make a beeline <g data-gr-id="114">to pursue</g> a course in a foreign university?
Secretary General D S Rawat of Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) says: “An important reason for many Indians choosing to study abroad is the lack of good institutions in India and growing competition for limited seats amongst the existing institutes. Very few universities in India provide good quality education and thus the challenge of securing admission in them becomes more daunting each year.”
But there is more to the story. Foreign university degrees are perceived to provide the most prestigious and valuable credentials and the United States seems to be the most favoured destination, attracting more than half of all Indian students seeking greener pastures abroad.
The US universities have colleges for all disciplines such as engineering, business management, <g data-gr-id="105">film making</g> and computer science. In fact, there is a mechanism at all the universities to make sure that foreign students adjust effortlessly. The social atmosphere in America comprises residents all over the world leading to easy adjustment for any country’s student or professional.
For getting an admission for higher qualifications after standard twelfth, a student needs to appear for Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), a standardised test for most college admissions in the US. Then, there are entry exams like the American College Testing (ACT) and Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) through which students all over the world can get the scope to pursue their graduation and post graduation in US Universities. The criteria for distance learning programmes in <g data-gr-id="121">US</g> are equally stiff and exacting.
Academic funding is convenient in the US since most of the universities provide various scholarships to their students. Cost structures vary in private universities, with many charging exorbitant fees. State universities and community colleges are not as expensive. Why is there still such craze for US degrees among Indian students?
The accomplishments in the US-India Partnership has crossed a benchmark with over 1,00,000 Indian students in the US and continues to grow. Educational delegations from the US visiting India are looking forward to more such partnerships too. Fulbright-Nehru scholarship funds of over $6.7 million and more are doubling the number of grants.
ASSOCHAM’s latest study on “Skilling India: Empowering Indian Youth through World Class Education,” shows more and more Indian students are aspiring to go to newer destinations like Singapore, Germany, France, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Canada, China, Norway etc. There has been a significant rise of 20-25 per cent in recent times in the number of students travelling abroad in new destinations for higher education.
“Indians spend about $6-7 billion every year in sending their children abroad for higher
education. It is not just the elite who spend generously on a good education and <g data-gr-id="112">credentials</g> but the <g data-gr-id="110">middle class</g> families also spend their <g data-gr-id="109">life time</g> savings to educate their children abroad,” the study observes.
Binoy Mehta, Managing Partner & Co-Founder of Campus Connect and a partner of EDU World, says: “Choosing a right programme and a right University can be an ambiguous process. The selection process, I would say, is very subjective. First things to filter out would be location and budget in my opinion. What are your requirements or goals from the programme? Are you looking at international professional experience? What subject have you been most interested in to pursue? Based on your past subjects and curriculum, what interested you the most? These would be some of the many questions, I would ask, walking a student through the counselling process, answers to which help us mutually lock in a country, programme and finally the colleges to apply to.”
Going on to elaborate on the popular courses that students are opting for, he says: “Engineering and business, these two schools have always been the most popular. To be more specific, students are looking at computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, finance, accounting, marketing, Management Information Systems (MIS) and many more. However, over the last two years, I’ve personally seen a great interest in MIS as well as luxury brand management.”
Talking about the basic challenges that students face while going for foreign studies, Mehta says: “Questions are usually centred around the curriculum, grading system, job placements and expenses. Students are less prepared for the shift in the academic delivery between studying in India and their international counterpart. Having been an international student myself, I would say, it’s writing that was a challenge. Project reports and assignments can be a challenge when your writing skills are not on par with your fellow classmates. There’s also a lack of preparatory classes in India to prepare students for what lies ahead. Apart from this, I would say understanding and respecting the local culture is essential.”
Nishant Gupta, training and placement officer at MGM CoET, Noida, says opportunities to study abroad are shrinking compared to the past three, four years. “As a result, we are encouraging students for higher studies like MS courses.”
Rakshit Rekhi, who is pursuing a Master of Sciences Degree from University of Nebraska at Omaha with a concentration in Management Information Systems, talks about how it feels to be pursuing a course in a foreign university. He says: “Since I had done a good amount of research about the University and the course prior to applying for it, the experience has been amazing and I have seen myself grow at personal and professional levels because of the kind of exposure I have received since I started college here.
I was sure about what course I wanted to pursue in the third year of my <g data-gr-id="128">bachelors</g> degree, which was MIS. My university runs on a non-profit basis and is well funded by a lot of philanthropic individuals and organisations <g data-gr-id="135">and</g> therefore, the tuition fees are not that high. The research facilities are among the best in the United States and the University goes the extra mile to make college education memorable for its students. There are a lot of opportunities to meet people from different countries and hence broaden your professional network and even make great friends! Last but not the least, people of Omaha are amazing and they deeply believe in the growth of the community, which is one of the main reasons why I love this place.”
Elaborating on the finances, Mehta says: “If you break it down by country and on an annual expenses basis (Tuition + Cost of Living), I would consider Australia to be the highest right now, followed by the United Kingdom and then the United States. <g data-gr-id="155">Ofcourse</g>, once you plug in the duration of a programme, most US Bachelor’s degrees would be four years in duration, the added year would eventually level out to the same expense as the other two countries. When it comes to <g data-gr-id="152">cost effective</g> options, Germany, the Netherlands and a few other European countries would be the lowest owing to government subsidies, which allow students to enjoy a tuition waiver.”
On this, Rekhi says: “Finance was one of my main concerns in making a decision to pursue my higher studies abroad. It is a huge investment for your future. In my case, I took an education loan for pursuing my education abroad; I have been paying my own tuition fees since the second semester by saving money from my job, scholarship and competitions I participate in. I believe that I would successfully fund my own education for the remaining semesters.”
Most international students qualify for Merit-based aid. There are fellowships, scholarships and assistantships. These, however, would be at the institutional level. On the other hand, there are scholarships issued by government bodies (Indian and international) as well as various non-profits and even community specific scholarships.
Shamika Tomar, who went to pursue a career in filmmaking as a producer/director in Los Angeles, USA, says: “After I completed a one-year filmmaking course from the New York Film Academy, where I entered Hollywood and have worked on several short films as a producer, worked with a TV show with Joan Rivers and Melissa Rivers as the lead cast and also worked on a few commercials.” Now, she is back to Film School (New York Film Academy) where she is getting a Bachelor’s in filmmaking.
The entertainment industry is much more advanced here in the USA, Tomar adds and that is precisely why “I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to be here and gain as much knowledge as I can so that when I go back to India, I can bring in the change, which people want to see in Indian cinema.”
She further adds: “It gives us (students) great exposure while engaging with different cultures that enable students to broaden their horizons and help them think out of the box. Not that our Indian filmmakers haven’t succeeded in doing so but the techniques involved in making a film could be changed for good, which I would personally like to focus on. Courses related to film and music are definitely the ones that students prefer to pursue abroad. I wouldn’t know a person who would miss an opportunity to go and study abroad.”
International education has been among the top export industries of countries like the US and Australia. Incidentally, Chinese and Indian students have made up big numbers on university campuses in the US and UK for years but now, increasingly, they’re looking East to Australia and New Zealand.
The lure of pursuing degrees abroad has caught on firmly with foreign universities vying with one another to admit Indian students, in recent years. The sight of students thronging education fairs conducted by such universities is all too common and the most popular destinations are, no doubt, the United States, European and Australian universities.