What is the way out for those planning to go abroad for higher studies? Many of them have been hit hard by the double whammy of a falling rupee and the decision (not finalised) of the UK government to call for a 3,000 pound cash bond (about Rs. 2.75 lakh) for visas to the country. Is it a risk worth taking? Will one get good returns on the money invested or should one drop the idea altogether in search of a better option back in India?
Rahul Choudaha, director of research and strategic development at World Education Services - a New-York based non-profit specialising in international education and research, says value for money for studying abroad is contextual and it depends on a range of factors from upfront tuition and living costs to future employment outcomes and growth. “Given that many Indians plan to work in IT-related jobs, the US still offers long- term value for money for Indian students,” he says.
Young India Fellowship Dean, Pramath Raj Sinha, who has also been the first dean of the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, says both the visa and rupee issues are likely to bring down the number of Indian students in countries abroad. “I think there are some innovative new programmes being offered in our own country that are of very high quality - sometimes even better than what’s offered abroad.” It is, however, for the students to find out which ones these are. Unfortunately, Sinha says, they are not able to discern the good quality from the bad because there is so much of poor quality and promises made by educators that are not kept. “Finding a good course, however, will be worth the effort,” he adds.
Choudaha says upcoming immigration reforms related to Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) fields, will make the US even more attractive and valuable destination for Indian students.
“The depreciating value of the rupee is a disturbing trend for many students. However, long-term payoff of the studying abroad experience is still expected to outweigh these short-term external fluctuations,” he says.
What should India do to retain talent? “Offer more high-quality education,” says Sinha. Not just institutions that go after numbers of students but also institutions that provide the best education in the world to “our best and brightest right here in India.” Our existing top institutions “have not grown fast enough, they have stagnated or become worse in terms of quality and our new institutions have been focused on quantity at the expense of quality,” he adds
It is unfortunate that such bright students have to spend so much money, time and energy to go abroad in search of high-guality education. As dean of YIF, which is a one-year funded multi-disciplinary course for talented young people and which grooms young people to become change agents for the future, he has seen his students get admissions to Oxford University (Commonwealth scholarship), London School of Economics, Columbia University and The University of Chicago. “Our students are among the best in the world and sadly have been getting far poorer quality education than they deserve. We have some of the best faculty in the world teaching at YIF, and while all of them are blown away by the quality of our students, some of them have said that these are the best students they have ever taught in their entire careers. That is, indeed, very high praise, especially from some of the veterans and those who have taught all over the world in the best of universities. We are failing our younger generation. When we should be pushing them to achieve their full potential we are letting them down by forcing an education down their throats that is not worth their while,” Sinha says.