India undertapped as US student destination: Study

November 4th, 2011 - 3:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Doha (Qatar), Nov 4 (IANS) In the last two decades, an estimated one million Indian students have been educated in the United States. But only a miniscule number of students have gone from the US to India, says a new study on the subject.

Of the one million, over 104,000 came in the 2009-10 academic year alone. In contrast, only 2,690 US students enrolled for academic credits in India 2008-09. US students visiting India mostly focus on enhancing their knowledge of this country, Indian history, culture, language or interdisciplinary themes, among others, says the report, titled ‘Expanding US Study Abroad to India: A Guide for Institutions’ and made available to IANS here during the World Innovation Summit for Education.

It points out, however, that India is the third most attractive destination in Asia for US students after China and Japan. Worldwide, India is only the 21st most popular overseas study destination for US students.

The study, prepared by Patricia Chow and Kimberly Cho and funded by the US State Department, notes that till not long back, the “majority of US students have gravitated towards Western Europe”.

The study, by the Institute of International Education, a private non-profit set up in 1919 to counter growing isolationism in the US, and promoting the “international exchange of people and ideas”, underlines the importance of learning about cultures “that are critical to US strategic interests” and acquiring languages that offer advantages in a global workplace.

The project was carried out between 2008 and 2010 in India, Brazil, Turkey, Thailand and Indonesia and recently published.

It sees India’s popularity “increasing” as a study destination, but notes also the “uneven quality of Indian higher education, a bureaucratic system that poses many hurdles to rapid expansion of Indo-US educational collaborations; vastly different pedagogy and curricula; and misconceptions and stereotypes on the part of US citizens about India as a country”.

On the positive side, it points to India’s “diversity, long history and increasing prominence in the world economy”. India’s higher education system has the third largest enrolment globally, after the US itself and China and IITs consistently rank among the world’s top universities.

India’s “highly centralised system” consists of 400 government and government-recognised institutions, including 20 central universities, 215 state universities, 100 deemed universities, and 13 institutions of national importance (including IITs and IIMs).

The study notes that Indian students stay on in the US for several years to complete their graduate degree programmes. Most US students in India join short-term programmes of one semester or less.

With 74 percent of Indian students in the US studying in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics
(STEM) fields, they were “contributing to US competitiveness in science and technology”, says the study.

“Indian students currently contribute $3.1 billion to the US economy through a combination of their educational and living expenses. The same is not true for US students in India.” Most US students studying in India gain credits for their US degree and tuition fees are mostly retained by the US home campus or study abroad provider.

“This enormous educational and economic exchange imbalance is an issue that needs to be addressed in the light of India’s increased importance on the world stage,” suggests the study.

It contrasts the situation with other foreign students. “India has long been a host to students from other developing countries,” it notes, saying there were some 22,000 international students enrolled in public and private Indian higher educational institutions in 2008-09, mostly from South Asia and the Middle East.

Most international students in India are full-degree students studying in cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Pune.

“Given India’s political and economic role in the global market, and its multitude of cultures and languages, it should be a more popular destination for international students, especially for US students. The majority of Indian universities, particularly the more distinguished ones, offer challenging and enriching programs in English, resulting in great potential for incrased partnerships with US institutions,” adds the study.

It also underlines India’s role as home to many international and domestic non-governmental organisations, development groups and service, and suggests the country gould be an “ideal location” for studies on issues of human rights, peace, justice, and also programmes focussed on business and entrepreneurship.

The study notes the slowed passage for India’s foreign educational institutions bill, meant to exempt accredited foreign providers from fee regulations, admission quotas and regulatory oversight from the University Grants Commission.

On the other hand, it notes the educational reforms underway - institutional governance, teacher accountability, accreditation and improvements in curriculum and resource allocation.

(Frederick Noronha can be contacted at fredericknoronha1@gmail.com)

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