There are around one lakh Indian students studying in the US (United States of America) and about six lakh international students going to the country every year to study in its 400 colleges and universities. Unfortunately, if you are not careful and do not have complete information on the genuine academic institutes, it can be easy for a number of unscrupulous ‘agents’ to take you for a ride – the Tri-Valley incident being a case in point. Here's how you can put some safety checks in place
Face-to-face meetings work: Meet up with the authorities from various US colleges who come to India for a visit. The nearest Education USA advising centre can tell you about upcoming fairs or other visits that give students an opportunity to speak with admissions officers face-to-face. Many of these take place in the spring or fall of the year before you intend to start your studies, so it is important to start your research early.
Accreditation of colleges you apply to: An important indicator of the quality of any US college or university is its accreditation status. The US does not have a central government office to approve educational institutions and relies on a system of voluntary accreditation carried out by non-governmental accrediting bodies to ensure that schools adhere to certain set standards. Talk to graduates who have returned to India to see if they have been successful in applying degrees earned from such institutions to their chosen professions. Those wanting to study further should also check whether other US universities will recognise credits and degrees from the colleges you are considering.
EducationUSA advising centres will tell you whether a US degree-offering institution is appropriately accredited.
Viability of agents: It is important to check the credentials and past performance records of consultants or agents before using their services.
If you do decide to use the services of an agent, be actively involved in the process, and be sure to understand what that person or company should realistically be able to deliver.
Ask for a list of names and addresses of references, particularly current students. Write to, e-mail, or telephone some of these students to get their firsthand opinion of the college where they study and the services they received from the agent or consultant. Such checks are all the more important if the agent or consultant charges a huge fee for his or her services. Always check with an unbiased source to ensure the legitimacy and accreditation status of the college being represented to you.
Disabled students: If you have special needs, make sure that the university you choose can accommodate you. Allow plenty of time to correspond with colleges.
Begin your inquiries at least two years before you plan to leave for the US. When you write for information from universities, give brief details of your disability and request information about assistance for students like you.
There are 156 institutions (including 133 universities) of higher learning in the UK that are ranked by Sunday Times and Times Higher Education (www.timeshighereducation.co.uk). You must check their ranking according to the discipline you want to study there. On Sunday Times (www.extras.timesonline.co.uk/stug/universityguide.php), you can even compare two varsities on different parameters such as research, students’ satisfaction, employment and other criteria.
The first top 20 UK universities, the counterparts of America's Ivy League, are known as Russell Group universities (www.russellgroup.ac.uk) which are research-led institutions with a medical school in them. They include Cardiff, Oxford, Cambridge, Birmingham, Newcastle, Nottingham, Southampton and Manchester, among others. The next 19 are known as 1994 group institutions (www.1994group.ac.uk) which are also research-led institutions of excellence but don’t have a medical school. They include University of Leicester, Reading, St Andrews, Surrey, Sussex, York and Exeter among others. These 39 varsities (Russell group and 1994 group taken together) are reliable and reputable across the world.
Credibility of other institutions has to be crosschecked from multiple sources – alumni, educationists, reliable consultants, rankings given by Sunday Times and most importantly – UK Department for Business Innovation & Skills where you can find out whether the university is genuine or fake. The review of universities is done by the Quality Assurance Agency. Check www.qaa.ac.uk for more details.
Going to a private college? There are numerous private colleges that get affiliation from the UK universities which enables them to dole out degrees in plenty. You must do a thorough check of the college with help from its alumni before you enroll there.
All universities and other institutions approved to offer degrees and other higher education awards are listed on the registers of the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). Institutions that are not listed on the AQF are not recognised by Commonwealth, state and mainland territory governments.
Australian universities (and a small number of other institutions) are generally established under state or territory legislation and once established they become self-accrediting and responsible for their own standards.
Other institutions may be accredited (usually for a specified period) to offer particular courses leading to higher education awards and are monitored by state or territory authorities. A list of these authorities is provided on the AQF website.
You may wish to notify the department of education, employment and workplace relations if you have any queries about an Australian institution; or an institution representing itself as being from Australia (email email@example.com). You can also send a mail to The Director, Quality Unit (Location 136), Higher Education Group, PO Box 9880, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia.
To check the validity of courses or institutions, refer to the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) on its website given below.
. National Association of Credential Evaluation Services
. U.S. Network for Education Information
. Distance Education and Training Council
. American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Website for International Students
. Community Colleges USA
. www.qaa.ac.uk (Quality Assurance Agency is a regulator)
. www.universitiesuk.ac.uk (Universities UK represents an association of 133 universities of UK, but it is not a regulator)
. www.dcsf.gov.uk/recognisedukdegrees/index.cfm?fuseaction=institutes.list&InstituteCategoryID=1 (To access the list of
recognised UK degrees)
. www.extras.timesonline. co.uk/stug/universityguide.php (Sunday Times rankings)