Sunday, July 14, 2013

Going for British education? Higher studies in Germany & France is cheaper and easier

During his state visit to India in February, French president Francois Hollande unveiled a plan to increase the number of Indian students studying in France by 50% in the next five years. Ambitious? Perhaps, but not unrealistic. After all, the country did achieve that target last year - in 2012, almost 2,600 Indian students opted for higher education in France, a jump of 50% over the previous year. In 2013, this ease to 3,000.

The French government, Campus France --- the national agency for the promotion of higher education, international student services and international mobility --- is going all out to lay out the red carpet for Indian students.

Today (July 14), France will launch a unique five-year circulation visa in the Schengen area which will be issued to Indian graduates of French institutions of higher learning for both business and tourism purposes. The scheme includes all present alumni — the 10,000 Indian nationals who've graduated from French institutions.

"We expect this [visa] will convince many students to apply to French institutions. Not only will it help them maintain networks they have built during their studies, it will also be a great asset in their professional life," says Caroline Gueny-Mentre, attache for scientific and university co-operation, Campus France.

Further, Indian students can stay on for six months after graduating to look for employment in France in their line of work. Once hired, a long-stay work permit is readily obtainable with the help of the company.

Continental Shift
These steps are proving to be a huge advantage for France in view of the declining popularity of the once most-popular destination in Europe for Indian students — the UK. Since April 2012, the UK discontinued the two-year post-study work route for international non-European Union (EU) students.

Foreign students from non-EU countries graduating with a UK degree have to find a job with a UK Border Agency-licenced Tier 2 sponsor to remain in the UK after they finish their courses. (The Tier 2 category is for foreign nationals who have been offered a skilled job to fill a gap in the workforce that cannot be filled by a settled worker.)

Further, they will have to earn a minimum annual salary of £20,000. And there's more to be worried about: the maintenance threshold for international students has been increased from April 2012, and students now have to show evidence of more funds to support themselves during their course. Small wonder then the number of Indian students going to the UK dropped to 15,097 in 2012 from 28,774 in 2011.
While the English language is still a big draw of the UK for Indian students, things are changing. In the past, it was not easy for students to work in non- English speaking countries of Europe after their studies and many found it difficult to pick up a foreign language. "Students who have family businesses prefer to study in the EU because the courses are generally shorter and hence cheaper. Such students are not looking for employment," explains Karan Gupta, a Mumbai-based education consultant. Besides, he adds, some EU countries such as France and Germany have special work visas that international students can apply for. "The majority of Indian students are value-seekers.

The higher barriers of visa and lower employment prospects have lowered the value proposition," explains Rahul Choudaha, a consultant and director of research and strategic development, World Education Services, New York. Thus, some Indian students, especially with limited funds, are finding other European destinations like Germany and France, more attractive. This is primarily due to a combination of two factors: lower or no tuition fees coupled with wider choice for master's programmes in English, adds Choudaha.

Agrees Gupta: "Public institutes in Germany don't charge any tuition fees even from international students. Thus many students from India choose Germany as it's significantly cheaper than anywhere else in the world," he adds.

Lower tuition fees are motivating many Indian students like Dhruv Kumar, 24, to move to France rather than the UK. "Many of the top business schools in France are more affordable than similar ones in the UK. Scholarships are also easily available," says Kumar, who is all set to join a masters of management programme at Essec, one of France's top business schools.

An engineering graduate from Delhi University, Kumar believes that renewable energy, which is his area of specialisation, has a lot of opportunities in France and he will be able to intern with top companies there. "I have taken up French classes for the past two months. However, my course will be taught in both English and French," he says.

They Teach in English
In France, the language barrier is being chiselled away. More than 700 courses at the master's level are taught in English. The number is expected to increase dramatically thanks to the reform of public university curriculums. Campus France also plans to launch an HR forum of French companies in India shortly.

"The objective is to develop executive management programmes at the senior level, as well as internship programmes, to raise awareness about the quality of French business education and its alumni, develop the number of CSR ventures, scholarships, and placement platforms for Indian graduates of French universities," says Gueny-Mentre.

For many of the French companies with large operations in India, Indian students taking up management, technology and science courses in France form a large talent pool for their operations across Europe and elsewhere.

"Going to the top universities in France opens doors for Indian students to be employed in Europe and if they pick up the French language they become even more valuable for companies such as ours with large operations in Europe and French-speaking countries of Africa," says Avadesh Singh, deputy CEO in India of French engineering group Egis. The Continental advantage for Indian students looking for higher education options overseas extends to Germany too.

Currently, there are 6,000 Indian students studying in Germany, with the numbers showing an annual increase of 20% over the past three years. The country is branding itself as the economic locomotive in Europe with highly integrated global flows of people. Germany too is wooing Indian students towards big job opportunities that can come their way after education. Indian students are allowed to work 120 days a year during their studies in Germany and, after they have completed their courses, graduates can stay on for another 18 months to look for a job.

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), July 14, 2013

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