Wednesday, June 30, 2010

NITs to attract foreign students

The officials of Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) feel there might be something, after all, to the melting pot the metaphor used by colleges in the U.S. to describe diversity on campus. Now, they want a similar thing in India. In a March 4, 2010, circular to the National Institutes of Technology (formerly Regional Engineering Colleges), the MHRD has asked them to go all out to attract foreign students. Not just non-resident Indians (NRIs) or people of Indian origin (PIO), but students from the U.S., U.K. and Australia as well. As officials see it, building diversity on campus is just a step away from preparing students to subsequently deal with increasing diversity at the workplace.

Our curriculum is at par with international levels. What we lack is branding, and this will happen only when more foreign students apply to India, says MHRD deputy advisor N. Mohan Das. In the letter, the MHRD entrusts the National Institute of Technology Karnataka (NITK) with the responsibility to evolve a framework for publicising schemes by creating a web-portal for application, submissions and the entire admissions process. The reason for roping in NITs is that while these institutes are second-rung in India after the IITs, they are not recognized abroad. At the same time, the meltdown has made students look at relatively inexpensive options in Asian countries, for both study and work, making it the right time to go international.

Currently, the 15% quota reserved for foreign students is filled by NRIs and PIOs from the Gulf. "We do not get quality students due to a lack of information", says Prof. Sunil Sarangi, Director of NIT Rourkela, Orissa. Most people look at the U.S. or U.K., unaware of the facilities available here. In its first year, the program will focus on publicizing Indian tech institutions in places with a substantial Indian population, like Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. Later, the aim will be to target students from countries known to provide quality education, like the U.S., U.K., France and Australia. NIT alumnus, home on vacation and teachers on official visits abroad, are expected to organize popularisation drives.

Even though the institutes are wooing foreign students, they are quite clear there will be strict norms for admissions. While the MHRD wants to make the admissions process under the direct admission of studies abroad scheme more user-friendly, Indian institutions say they will only accept quality students. We are modelling the system along the lines of those in the U.K. and U.S., says Prof. Sandeep Sancheti of NITK Surathkal, Mentor-Director of NIT Goa. Entrance to foreign students from this year will be based on their scores from international admissions tests like the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) unlike earlier, when their school-leaving mark sheets would suffice.

That doesn't deter people like Catherine Nalubega of Ukraine, who is currently doing her second year civil engineering at NITK and plans to live on in India. Nalubega picked NITK over options in Russia and China, and feels the Indian governments scholarship schemes, if promoted better, will attract more foreign students. Having more foreign students will also bring in foreign exchange; especially when the recession has made people look at value-for-money, cost-effective education options. Its a win-win for everyone.

Source: The Economic Times, June 30, 2010

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