Indian students opting for new career choices, modules in foreign varsities

July 10th, 2008 - 1:49 pm ICT by IANS  

By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, July 10 (IANS) New patterns are emerging in the higher education choices of Indian students seeking admission to universities abroad, even as the volume of student traffic from India to Europe, America and Australia races northward. Foreign education counsellors say they are seeing a growing interest in transfer admissions and undergraduate studies abroad. There is also a gradual shift from traditional courses to technology-driven and career-oriented modules.

Seventeen-year-old Yash Sahai, who wants to pursue an engineering degree either in Massachusetts or in Cornell University in the US, is interested in transfer study programmes. He has been attending career choice counselling sessions at the American Centre, with at least 50 students, to know more about these. The teenager is a first-year engineering student.

A transfer study programme is an academic module that transfers credit from a four-year degree-granting academic institution not affiliated to a university in the US.

Shevanti Narayan, country manager of the Educational Advising Services arm of the United States Educational Foundation in India (USEFI), said students now want to keep their options open so as to switch from one field to another.

“We are seeing an interest in transfer admissions and US undergraduate studies,” Narayan told IANS in an e-mail interview.

She said students were choosing more inter-disciplinary programmes and experimenting with diverse subjects, adding: “They are exploring new disciplines.”

“Indian students apply to a range of schools and colleges in different states of the US. Their choice of school not only depends on the field and level of study that the institution offers but also several other factors.

“For the past several years, California, New York, Washington, Texas, Massachusetts and Florida are among the leading states that Indian students are opting for,” the USEFI official said.

Earlier, students were dictated by tradition rather than needs, career possibilities and individual flair for particular subjects, overseas education counsellors said.

The choice of courses is showing a gradual shift from humanities and general studies to specialised modules like business management and engineering which top the fields of study. Other popular subjects are life sciences, computer science, economics and health sciences, say counsellors.

Over the past three years, the demand for career-oriented courses dealing with environment, media and communication, art and design and law has grown, counsellors from the US embassy said.

According to an estimate by USEFI that facilitates the Fulbright scholarship programme in India, 76,503 Indian students were enrolled in American universities in 2006 and 83,833 in 2007.

Admission to graduate courses was much higher at 73.70 percent in 2006 and 71 percent in 2007. In contrast, enrolments in undergraduate courses was only 16.60 percent in 2006 and 15 percent in 2007, USEFI said quoting data culled from Open Doors 2007, Institute of International Education.

The growing number of students from India to the US has also prompted the two countries to expand the scope of the Fulbright scholarship programme, one of the most popular overseas academic modules for students of both the nations.

The programme, initiated in 1963, was revised July 4 this year and renamed the Fulbright-Jawaharlal Nehru scholarships and grants. It will now enable double the number of exchange scholars and students to visit the US for high education and vice versa. Under the old programme, only 100 students from India could go to the US for advanced studies.

According to Biju Paul Abraham, an associate professor of the Indian Institute of Management-Calcutta and an alumnus of King’s College in London, post-globalisation the demand for business study courses abroad have shot up because multinational companies need skilled business managers in India.

“Most of the students from my institute go abroad for their doctoral programmes, after they get jobs,” he said. But Abraham, who counsels students in his leisure hours, says students at the undergraduate level who cannot make it to the premier Indian Institutes of Management often opt for “good business schools” across the globe.

Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency shows that business and management is the most popular option for Indian students in Britain, followed by computer science, engineering and pharmaceutical sciences.

“An MBA degree in the UK costs around 15,000 pounds a year,” Abraham told IANS.

The number of Indian students last year was 21,000, said officials at the British Council here.

“And we are growing at 10 percent annually,” Amit Charturvedi of the British Council, told IANS in an e-mail.

France has also seen a substantial increase in the number of Indian students over the years, said Archana Chaudhary of the French embassy’s education and culture wing here.

The total number of Indian students in France in 2007-08 was 1,700 and the French government issued 1,300 new student visas in the year.

French education counsellors in India say the USP of the country’s education is “quality, variety and accredited degrees from the best institutes”.

Cashing in on the rising aspiration of students in this country for foreign technical degrees, France this year has been hard-selling its engineering modules in India.

On July 3, French telecom major Orange announced engineering scholarships for meritorious students who wanted to study for specialised master’s degrees in France.

The students will be joining two French engineering institutes, the Institute Superieur d’Electronique de Paris and Institut Telecom-Paristech.

French Ambassador to India Jerome Bonnafont said the scholarships were a wonderful opportunity to “bring the best of French higher education institutes, the industry and Indian talent on a common platform”.

Alten, a conglomerate of French engineering firms, chose 16 Indian engineering students to study in technical institutes across France in April.

French education officials attribute the growing interest in France as an educational destination to the ability of Indian students to look beyond the US and Britain. Students were willing to explore Europe due to larger economic interests, counsellors said.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at

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