Saturday, October 17, 2009

World Class: Indian students largest group in global classrooms

Over the last couple of years, Indian students made news on international campuses and emerged as the biggest group the world over, going past even the Chinese. In America, India remained the leading country of origin of foreign students for the seventh consecutive time in financial year 2008, increasing by 13% to 94,563 students, according to the Open Doors report - published annually by the Institute of International Education (IIE) with support from the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. In all, over 2 lakh Indian students studied overseas last year. And the attraction of global campuses is not just because of problems at home - such as not enough seats for professional courses or the reservation system. Overseas education is considered a ticket to global careers -and Indian professionals are among the most sought after in the overseas job market. Besides, Indian families still value education over most other investments and parents are willing to avail themselves of loans to send their children for foreign degrees. Indian banks have been providing loans at attractive interest rates in the last few years for education overseas.

In fact, many overseas universities depend on revenue from foreign students and increasingly see India as one of the biggest markets. In 2007-08, for instance, Australian educational institutions earned around A$13.7 billion forex from international students, with as many as 97,000 from India enrolling in courses across the country. However, is the dream run now over? On one side there’s the global slowdown blues and then there are worries over violence against Indian students in Australia, which has in the last few years emerged as the hottest campus destination for Indians. And even though the exact figures for students visas are not yet available from Australia, latest data from the US Embassy - which is available exclusively with SundayET - shows a dramatic 25% decline in the numbers of F-1 student visas issued in India for the financial year 2009 (October 2008-September 2009) at 25,860 against 34,510 issued in FY 2008.

While many experts feel that a short-term fall in the number of students going for education overseas is not surprising, they’re also bullish about the long haul and feel that the number of Indians seeking global degrees will continue to grow in the years to come. “Worldwide economic recession is bound to have an impact on the number of students applying to the USA. However, interest in US higher education continues. Large numbers of students still throng the US university fairs that we organise and we continue to meet students at our centres all over the country seeking guidance on the application procedures. The benefits of US higher education cannot be undermined, an Indian student equipped with US education comes out with a truly global edge,” says Shevanti Narayan, country co-ordinator, educational advising services, United States-India Educational Foundation.

The US is still perceived as one of the most preferred destinations for Indian students, specially in the wake of the attacks in Australia, some of which were racial. “US continues to be a popular destination for Indian students. The quality, choice, value and flexibility are some of the factors that make Indian students choose US over any other country. The US educational experience encourages one to be innovative, creative and think independently. The long-term career prospects of a student are enhanced as the method of teaching is designed to apply theoretical knowledge. The American approach to education is recognized as among the best and most innovative in the world,” Narayan adds.

Australia, on the other hand, will probably suffer a setback as far as popularity among Indian students is concerned. Following the recent spate of attacks against Indian students, the Australian government has initiated steps to improve the quality of education service providers, specially those in the vocational education and training sector. The Australian government as well as the government of Victoria are also looking into issues of law and order and beefing up policing in areas frequented by foreign students. The Indian government too, has initiated steps such as keeping a check on unscrupulous education agents in India. The ministry of overseas Indian affairs is also planning a pre-departure procedure for registration of all Indian students going overseas. The joint working group (JWG) on student mobility set up by both the governments met for the first time recently, agreeing on a number of concrete measures to enhance the interests and welfare of Indian students.

Says Michael A. Opie, manager international students, international office, Charles Darwin University, in the north of Australia, who’s just wrapped up a visit to India: “I was told by all agents that the number of applications are down for Australia and that they expect it to take at least six months to recover. I think the steps taken by the Australian government will help but now that many Indian students are being interviewed before a visa is granted I suspect that this will mean that fewer visas are issued for diploma level studies. This will also reduce the number of students coming to Australia. Prospective students are also aware that there are likely to be changes in migration rules in the near future and this is also causing some hesitation about applying to study in Australia.”

Meanwhile, the UK Border Agency, too, has streamlined the system for student visas under the Tier 4 system which was introduced on March 31 this year and more recently from October 1, all applicants making a Tier 4 student visa application must hold the required funds in their personal or their parents’ bank account for a minimum period of 28 days prior to making their visa application. Despite the new rules, the number of applications for students visas to the UK had increased between April and July 2009. “We are still seeing an increase in the number of students going to the UK. Education is so important to Indian families that they will put this ahead of many other things and continue to invest in their children’s future. I think education is seen as even more important in a time of economic slowdown as it becomes the key route to ensuring a secure career. The new visa regulations have been introduced over the past few months and students and agents are slowly getting used to these and the process is therefore coming easier now that the transition from the old to the new system has taken place. Based on what we are hearing from UK institutions and the UK Border Agency numbers have increased this year,” says Sally Goggin, head education, British Council India and Sri Lanka. In UK, another advantage is that the foreign exchange rate is more favourable for Indian students than many other Western countries. This is a big advantage in terms of tuition fees and living expenses. In 2008, there were over 30,000 students visas for UK were issued in India and conservative estimates show at least a 15% increase over that this year.

Canada, too, is expecting a hike in the number of students from India. Canadian colleges and universities are being actively promoted here and the advantage that Canada offers to Indian students in getting on the fast track to the job market and permanent residence are seen as advantages. “The cost of studying and living in Canada has remained stable at about Rs 4-4.5 lakh per year. Besides, there has been significant interest and a positive vibe generated by the launch of the Canadian experience class visa which as a policy is favourable to international students. Most institutions in Canada have seen an increase in enrolments and some have had record number of applications. This year we are quite optimistic and expect to continue to demonstrate an increased percentage in overall numbers for Canada,” says Maria Mathai, director, Canadian Education Centre, India. It is estimated that there will be at least 4000+ Indian students enrolling in Canadian institutions, up from 31,00 study visas issued last year. New Zealand, too, is expecting more Indian students this year in comparison to last year in view of the fact that international students gain points under the skilled migrant category. Likewise, France has recently allowed Indian students to stay back for six months after their courses to look for jobs.

In fact, more and more Continental European countries are opening their doors wider for Indian students. “Germany has established itself as a very popular research destination for Indian scientists and researchers with over 1000 of them currently pursuing world class research at German universities and research centres. Globalisation of the academic and scientific world has become a reality. The need for globally educated professionals and academicians is evident in the corporate as well as the scientific community. With around 250.000 international students, Germany is the third most popular study destination for foreign students worldwide. To strengthen this position, more and more universities are developing dedicated internationalisation strategies, expanding their networks and customizing their study offers,” says Apoorv Mahendru, head of operations, education network South Asia of the German Academic Exchange Service in Delhi.

This informative article is written by Ishani Duttagupta for The Economic Times, October 11, 2009.

1 comment:

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