Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Indian destinations

Where are Indian students going to study abroad?

Traditional destinations shouldn’t take Indian students for granted as they look at more exotic options

Matt Salusbury reports

This article first appeared in the English language teaching industry trade paper English Language Gazette, May 2008

India is a huge market for English-medium higher education courses. We emailed India-based subscribers to our digital newsletter asking them about where Indians are going to study abroad.

According to ELT professionals the US, UK and Australia are the most desirable destinations for Indian students. One also mentioned Canada, while another identified Singapore as a big destination.

Which markets are growing as destinations for Indian students? ‘Australia is becoming more attractive. Europe is the next attraction because they are more friendly and affordable,’ said one. Another view was that ‘Australia, Singapore and Russia are gaining fast. Many medical students are also looking at options in China and Russia as studies there are less expensive than India and the US and the UK.’

Australia and Singapore are perceived by Indian students as countries for which it’s relatively easy to get student visas. Germany and France have a reputation for advantageous arrangements for student grants and tuition fees, with France in particular becoming a favoured destination for research students.

One respondent told us, ‘Many Ielts candidates state that they are going to Australia because they have heard that getting an Australian visa is easier than getting a visa to the UK and US.’ Universities Australia last year signed ‘international counterpart agreements’ on student exchanges with India, which should result in more Indian students in Australia.

When it comes to visa hassles for the US and the UK, we were told that these two countries are ‘feared’ by Indian applicants.
A sharp fall in the quota of H1-B work visas issued by the US for skilled professionals, capped at 65,000 visas per year after 9/11, was keenly felt by the non-resident Indian diaspora, and the assumption seems to have taken hold that student visas are also much harder to get.

What reasons do Indian students give for choosing a course abroad, and why don’t they instead choose to study at one of the over 113 higher education institutes in India? Admission to specialised higher education courses within India is seen as limited, with ‘candidates screened with stringent entrance exams’ and the policy of positive discrimination making access to these institutes difficult for those not covered by ‘reservation’ – keeping a percentage or quota of university places for applicants from lower castes. Other factors attracting Indians to study overseas are ‘better job prospects, greater status in society and larger pay packets after studies.

Indians abroad mostly study ‘postgraduate and technical courses – MBA, commerce-related and applied sciences are the preferred courses. Most students go abroad for postgraduate studies, although the number of students opting for undergraduate studies abroad is also up.’

It’s clear that the traditional destinations for Indian students had better watch out. Increasing numbers of Indians are going to study in countries that aren’t even regarded as English-speaking – Germany, which issues student visas to Indians for postgraduate study only, France and the rest of Europe, Singapore and even China and Russia for medical training.
It seems to be a difficult process to open a joint venture university in India, with probationary periods of state approval to go through and huge ‘security deposits’ payable to prevent a foreign university closing up after only a few years and stranding the students. But some of the traditional markets for Indian students are establishing a foothold in India beyond the usual recruitment office they have based there.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair’s India visit last year saw the launch of the UK–India Education and Research Initiative. Coventry University is now running a physiotherapy degree with Bangalore’s MS Ramaiah Technology Institute, and University of London’s external study business courses can now be taken at the University of Delhi. Open Universities Australia also has centres in four Indian cities. US universities such as Yale are hoping to open greenfield site campuses in India. It’s likely that more Indian students will in time go for a higher education course with a foreign university based in India, rather than actually going abroad.

Thanks to Francis Peter, who is a teacher trainer at Loyola College Chennai, and to Hutoxi Randeria, who is a freelance educational consultant.

Copyright: English Language Gazette

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