Why do Indians want to Study Abroad?

“Why do Indians want to Study Abroad?”

by Philip G. Altbach via “The Hindu

GREENER PASTURES: A degree from a top foreign university tends to be valued more in the Indian job market than a local degree, a perception based on facts too. File photo: Nagara Gopal

When bright students look around India for a place to study for an advanced degree, they find few top-quality programmes

Post-graduate students from India are increasingly choosing to study abroad. The U.S. Council of Graduate Schools’ new statistics show that offers of admission to Indian post-graduate students are up 25 per cent for 2013-14 from the previous year, compared to a 9 per cent increase for all countries. Numbers from China showed no increase compared to last year. While these statistics are only for the U.S., India’s most popular destination, it is likely that other countries such as Germany, Canada and the U.K. are also seeing significant increases from India.

Reasons for departure

Why? There are, no doubt, many reasons why Indians are choosing to study abroad. Two of these factors are troubling for India’s universities and for prospects for the high-tech economy. When bright students look around India for a place to study for an advanced degree, they find few top-quality programmes. In the social sciences and humanities, there are a small number of respectable departments, but absolutely none that are considered by international experts as in the top class of academic programmes. In the hard sciences, biotechnology, and related fields, the situation is more favourable with a few institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology, the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and some others, despite limited acknowledgement from abroad, being internationally competitive by most measures. But the numbers of students who can be served by these schools is quite limited.

Thus, if a bright Indian wants to study for a doctorate or even a master’s degree at a top department or university in most fields, he or she is forced to study overseas. Further, a degree from a top foreign university tends to be valued more in the Indian job market than a local degree — a perception based not only on snobbery but also on facts. While master’s degrees can be quite costly in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and elsewhere, doctorates are in fact quite inexpensive because of the likelihood of securing a research or teaching fellowship or assistantship that pays for most or all of the costs. . . . .

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