“Going abroad for your undergraduate degree?” It is still an eyebrow raising feat when talking about fresh out of high-school, recent board exam fatigued, students in India.
Indian parents, especially the molly-coddling kind, have been known to not let their apples fall an inch farther from their backyards.
…Or so you would think.
The current generation parents have become far more global about their children’s future than before. If we put our faith in numbers, various reports seem to suggest that the young Indian student population is thriving quite well in the western nations, and in fact at the undergraduate level.
Based on IIE.org Open Doors reports, there are over 22k Indian undergraduate students in America. This is an upward trend albeit facing a slow-down in the past few years.
As for the other study destinations, Germany boasts nearly 18k, Canada about 55k, 70k in Australia, and about 17k students in UK, in all academic levels.
So, why the flux of Indian undergraduate students abroad? Why do so many of them choose to spend their years in college in a foreign land and why, at the same time, so many more choose to stay behind at the home front?
We will explore the reasons, the pros and the cons that motivate either group to land their schooling decision.
The foremost reason is the exposure factor. Many of these western countries host some of the world’s best ranked universities.
For instance, USA has 41 universities within the top 100 best according to Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
Compared to that, even the best Indian institutes don’t make it among the top. The top IITs, IIMs and a few elite universities/institutes aside, most of the Indian institutes offer less than optimum training and opportunities.
For instance, there are over 10k accredited engineering schools in India and only the top 100 receive love from recruiters.
The bottom 35-40 percentile of engineering schools in India have employability in the single digit.
Naturally, the competition to make it to the top tier colleges is too severe. Of the 11 lakh plus students who appear for the IIT JEE entrance examination to make it into such top tier engineering institutes, only 50k qualify for admission.
That’s a conversion of merely 4.3% futures. Many well-deserving bright students thus turn to foreign pastures for equally good, if not better, education.
A degree from any of the premier international universities is associated with world-wide glory, recognized among recruiters across the globe.
Instead of the highly competitive and deterministic entrance examinations, admission into such universities is contingent on a whole lot of wholesome factors such as merit, SAT/ACT scores, recommendations, essays, etc.
An international education also brings with it multi-cultural exposure. Undergraduate degree usually spans four years.
Unlike Master’s or PhD, UG is a period of personal and educational growth in a young adult. The years of independent living in a foreign land can not only be a confidence booster but also help develop a global outlook.
The state of higher education in India leaves a lot to be desired when considering the flexibility and options it provides to its students.
The system is rather archaic with rigid rules with respect to the choice of major and minor specialization subjects of study.
Very few circumstances can lead a student to get an Engineering degree along with a study of the history of evolution of the modern piano.
Even as early as in high-school, the Indian education system denies an amalgamation of interests such as if ranging from the core humanities to the pure sciences. It is always one or the other.
Training flexibility is a system widely accepted in the western education sphere.
Being a student in a foreign country has its advantages if you want to set up shop there after graduation. Anyone who is interested in exploring the international job market, has a better chance of converting her student visa to work visa as compared to being recruited fresh off the boat.
USA allows its international graduates to opt for an OPT. STEM degree holders get an additional period to bask in the OPT sunshine.
This Optional Practical Training allows fresh international graduates to work while waiting on a work visa (usually H1B). The additional STEM extension also allows a few more bites off the apple (more H1B selection tries).
Now, as an Indian graduate trying to find a job abroad, you need to have far more than just extra talent to lure international employers to hire you despite their overhead costs.
Even if you are looking into further education, instead of a job, the familiarity of being in the system usually helps make a better choice and wiser decision tailored to your future plans.
A lot of undergraduate students explore research options under faculty members over a few semesters.
Often these research experiences translate into viable journal publications, handy recommendations for graduate school, or even a research head start under the supervision of the advising faculty, upon being admitted into grad school.
Financing education is an issue for most Indians, especially if the expense is in the thousands of dollars, pounds, or any of such heavy currencies.
Except for a few countries like Germany, undergraduate tuition costs are equivalent to the price tag of a mid-sized condo in an Indian city.
So, without the help of the assistance provided by scholarships, it is quite impossible for most Indian parents to afford an annual university fee between 20k-50k (or more).
Without the guarantee of an internationally placed job after graduation, taking on the burden of such high student loans is not advisable.
At least with a Masters or PhD abroad, the expertise alone can be used to get a high paying job or opt for an EB1/EB2 Green Card entry category. Such a luxury is not open to undergraduate degree holders.
In India, undergraduate tuition costs are very low, with heavy subsidies from the government, state or central. Even when tuition costs are high as in some professional or private colleges, they are orders of magnitude lower than that of international universities.
Living costs are also much lower. Most Indian undergrads either live with their parents during the course of the degree or live in highly affordable campus accommodations. Thus, student debt is not a major headache for a majority of Indian students and their guardians.
The problem lies in recognisability and visibility. If you desire to return to the Indian job scene upon graduation, you should first gauge how well your university, degree, and skills, are perceived by Indian employers.
The popular Ivy leagues aside, a lot of small to mid-sized firms have very little information of the credibility of otherwise good universities in the context of employability.
Only those universities with a significant alumni population in India receive a stamp of approval by Indian companies. There is also a negative perception about the staying power of foreign graduates.
A lot of Indian employers are under the impression that given a chance, Indians with a foreign degree will leave their employment for opportunities abroad.
Indian employers are also not known to participate in campus placement events abroad. Whereas, most Indian institutes have established connections with Indian recruiters.
Such a divide can create loss of employment opportunities for bright students graduating from an international university.
The Association of Indian Universities grants accreditation to international degrees in India.
If your undergraduate degree doesn’t meet the standards set by the AIU, you might get denied an opportunity to pursue further studies in India.
Read this article on what conditions need to be met for foreign degree evaluation in India – Value of MS degree from USA, Germany, Canada, UK, and Australia, for jobs in India.
Having an Indian undergraduate degree inherently resolves such conflicts as long as the degree granting university/institute is recognized by the University Grants Commission.
Whatever suits you best. The decision is entirely dependent on your finances, education requirement, and future plans. To help come to a decision, evaluate the following factors in your personal and academic life.
– What do you want to study?
– Does the international university have good academic record with regards to its graduates? What are they doing now?
– Do you want to settle abroad or in India?
– Can you manage the expenses?
– What will be the ROI of such an early investment in expensive education?
Once you have the responses ready, send us an email at info[at]mbacrystalball[dot]com if you need consulting help for your college admissions.
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