Plan to study abroad? Be sure to pick the right kind of degree
Not all foreign graduates are sought-after by employers back home; a number of degrees aren’t even recognised in India.Updated: Jun 06, 2019, 19:26 IST
Over the last decade, there’s been a big change in Indian higher education. Government reports say that the number of students enrolled in foreign universities increased from 27,000 in 2011 to more than 5 lakhs in 2017. But crucially, more Indian students are headed abroad from smaller towns, enrolling themselves in more affordable universities in countries and foreign cities that didn’t have many Indian candidates before.
Many headed to the US, UK, Eastern Europe and Asia, are hoping to return and find jobs here. Many have landed home to realise their years abroad were a mixed bag. They have the education they sought, but the degrees they earned are either not recognised, not valid or not of equal value in India.
This is particularly a challenge for those applying for civil services or continuing their studies in India. Equivalency certificates, eligibility criteria and screening tests are often necessary, while the complicated regulations of the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) and the professional councils under the University Grants Commission (UGC), delay jobs and further studies.
The trick, say experts is to check out your degree’s value before you sign up for a course abroad. Many consultancy services now help sort out the questions that inevitably arise when a foreign degree crosses the border into India.
THE MEDICAL ROUTE
Medical, law and engineering degrees are popular courses sought after by Indian students. And the well-worn destinations include the USA, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. For students opting to study medicine in these countries, there are no tests by the Medical Council of India (MCI) once you return. Many students start their practice right away.
These are also the most expensive degrees. “The tuition fee can be as high as Rs.1 crore per year, with a course duration of seven years,” says Shobhit Jayaswal, proprietor of education consultancy Global Medical Foundation in Delhi. A similar degree in Asia and Eastern Europe, on the other hand, takes four to five years and will cost as little as Rs 11.5 lakh per year.
It’s easy to see why this is an attractive option for Indians. But here’s the flip side. Students applying for MBBS degrees in Asia and Eastern Europe and hoping to practice in India afterwards must take one extra step. They must meet the eligibility criteria from the Medical Council of India (MCI) before applying for a course in any of the universities in these countries.
“The eligibility certificate can be achieved either by qualifying for the test by MCI or by qualifying for NEET,” says Jayaswal. The MCI’s Foreign Medical Graduate Examination (FMGE) test is no picnic. The passing rate was a mere 11 percent last year.
ENGINEERING A RETURN
Indians headed abroad to study engineering are increasingly considering universities in Russia and China. These courses are marketed as being innovative, with affordable fees and offering better access to labs, contemporary case studies and other infrastructure.
For degree-holders from these nations looking to work in India, the AIU has been granting equivalency certificates since 2015 for Rs.12000. You’ll be granted eligibility if your course was a full-time one, pursued on campus. Part-time, correspondence and online courses, and degrees from on offshore campuses are typically not eligible.
Vikas (second name withheld on request) studied aerospace engineering at the National Aerospace University in Ukraine and was hoping to clear the Services Selection Board (SSB) Navy screening when he returned in 2014. He was left disappointed. The AIU was unwilling to provide an equivalency certificate for the 4.5 year course as opposed to the 5 year degree recognised by the body.
The AIU has since amended their regulations, allowing shorter degrees with equal number of credits to be given equivalency. “It would be great if there was a screening test for engineering student to prove their worth, like the medical FMGE,” says Vikas, who now works for an aviation company in the UK.
TIPS AND ADVICE
For students applying to Hong Kong and Singapore, engineering, law and business management degrees are popular choices, says education consultant Karan Gupta who heads an eponymous education consulting firm in Mumbai. “The Bar Council has a list of thirty four universities around the world whose law degrees it recognises,” he says. “Students from other universities around the world have to register for and pass the State Bar Council test to be allowed to practise in India.”
Courses such as art, graphic design, hospitality, tourism management and other subjects that do not require eligibility from the UGC are granted equivalency by the AIU automatically. The only catch is that they should be of the same duration or have the same number of credits as their Indian counterparts, and should be studied on campus as a full-time course.
In most other cases, it’s a matter of how long a course lasts. Most UK universities hold year-long MBA programmes. So if you return and want to pursue a doctorate in India, take up a government job or apply for the National Eligibility Test (NET), you’re short by a few months. Students will then be required to complete a six-month bridge course at a UGC identified university. Once you’re done, you’re on par with a local MBA degree.