Students, going overseas for higher education, probably formed the first wave of Indians who adopted globalisation long before the concept created a buzz among Indian corporates and the government. IITians who went to the US in the 70s & 80s, for masters degrees in engineering or MBAs, are today Silicon’s Valley’s top entrepreneurs. And the global mobility of Indian students has increased phenomenally over the past decade, perhaps even more than Indian professionals and entrepreneurs.
According to the Unesco’s institute of statistics’ annual report on global trends in student mobility, which was released in May 2011, the number of international students around the world continued to rise sharply in 2009, the year when the impact of economic slowdown was causing tremors around the world, showing a 12% increase over the previous year at 3.43 million. While China remains the leader in sending students overseas with 440,000 Chinese students studying abroad; India holds second position with around 300,000.
According to the recently released Open Doors report, which is published annually by the Institute of international Education (IIE) in partnership with the US dept of state’s bureau of educational & cultural affairs, the number of Indian students enrolled in colleges and universities and colleges in the US in 2010-11, was 104,000. And though there was a marginal 1% decrease in the number over the previous academic year, students from India still form about 14% of all international students in the US and are second only to the Chinese.
So is the campus route the best option to go overseas? This is easily worth arguing in favour of. Consider some of the advantages – in most countries including America, Canada and now Australia, students who finish degree and above courses from recognised institutions, have leave to remain for at least a year (and in many cases more) to scout around for jobs. In the US, the sought after H1B work permit – a preferred option for skilled professionals, is now used in a very big way by Indian students who graduate from US colleges and then find jobs in the US. In fact, there are 20,000 H1B visas which have been set aside only for foreign students graduating from US institutions.
In the last couple of years, the appetite for overseas education is less because of various factors including global economic slowdown and the lack of employment after education, particularly in the West. Further, UK, a very popular study destination, has tightened immigration norms and made it impossible for students to remain in the country after studies to look for employment.
Interestingly, the main education destinations around the world, including UK, are also aggressively looking at attracting more international students particularly from India and China in an effort to add to their export earnings. Reason enough for them to become more competitive.
The UK has recently tightened rules for international students including curbing the opportunities to work during study and bring in family members. Obviously these drastic changes will have a huge fall-out on the international student numbers in UK. An all-party parliamentary group in the country while highlighting the economic impact of these changes pointed out that “international students provide income opportunities beyond tuition fees.”
The direct value of international students alone to the UK economy (including fees and off-campus spend) was calculated by the British Council in 2007 to amount to nearly £8.5 billion per year. Scotland’s education minister Michael Russell, who was recently in India, believes that the post-study leave to remain route – which first started in UK as Scotland’s Fresh Talent scheme – was important to tap the skills among international students. Scotland, he highlighted, had around 4000 Indian students studying in colleges and universities and would like to make its own rules on student immigration instead of being forced to follow the larger UK system. Many universities in Scotland and elsewhere in UK are putting in place systems to help Indian students in finding jobs before their courses end in UK.
Besides, Indians students with an entrepreneurial idea too, will find it easier to remain in UK after they finish their studies. Australia, unlike UK, has good news for international students. Recent visa changes that came into effect recently mean that Indian students going to Australia will have to demonstrate less funding. Further, Australia is offering a 2-4 year post-study work period for university degree graduates which is not linked to any skills occupation list.
Obviously, the way forward for those choosing to go overseas for education will be to become more brand conscious and find cost-effective options. Further, at least a few years of work overseas – not just to recover the investment in the foreign degree – but also to gain foreign work experience is important. It’s not just about getting an overseas degree but also about what the degree is worth afterwards in terms of global job opportunities that it will open up.
30 Nov 2011
Is education still the best route to take?
Posted on December 2, 2011