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Britain woos Indian students

The ability of Indian students to pay high tuition fees has not gone unnoticed in Western education circles.

india Updated: Mar 25, 2006 15:44 IST

Bold and bright Indian students are being wooed by top British educational institutes, with one academic saying that Indians outperform "even the brightest of our lot".

The ability of Indian students to pay high tuition fees has not gone unnoticed in Western education circles. The easy availability of bank loans for education and the increasing awareness of education abroad have made the Indians choosy.

"It is no longer the case that Britain is the preferred choice because of history and shared language. Indian students are now asking us why should they go to Cardiff University and not to Leicester University," a senior British academic who held student interview sessions at the British Council in New Delhi said.

The budget for international promotion - mainly focused on India, China and Southeast Asian countries - has increased exponentially in almost every British university in recent years.

Overseas students pay at least three times the fee that a home student pays, which makes them most sought after at a time of budgetary cuts.

Education authorities here are drawing up innovative plans to lure bright Indian students. These include offering discounts on fees to pick-ups at the Heathrow airport.

It is also accepted that Indian students invariably perform better than their counterparts from Britain or other countries.

"Time was when we could choose to admit an Indian student or not admit. Now admission is just a formality. Evidence shows that Indians outperform even the brightest of our lot," the academic said.

Recent estimates reveal that there are 17,000 Indian students in Britain, compared to over 80,000 in the US. British education authorities are keen to bridge this gap.

Several universities have appointed agents in India, while many make it a point to put up stalls at the education fairs organised by the British Council.

The latest to make a beeline to the prized fee-paying, smart Indian students is Lord Chris Patten, chancellor of the University of Oxford.

He is scheduled to visit India and China in March as part of a drive to attract the brightest students to help the university compete with the better-funded US Ivy League colleges.

"Globalisation doesn't end at the Thames Valley," the former European commissioner and governor of Hong Kong told the Financial Times in an interview.

"We have to fight very hard to keep our position in the world league table to stay up there with Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford and MIT.

"One of the problems in India is that we have a rather conservative, stuffy image. People don't realise the flexibility and modernity of our courses," Lord Patten said.

On his visit to Bangalore, Mumbai and New Delhi, he will meet Oxford alumni, speak at a business school seminar and discuss ways of raising more money for bursaries for Indian students. Only 133 of Oxford's 17,700 students are from India, compared to 547 from China.

The University of Cambridge is also working in the same mode although its focus has recently been more on China than India.

At Oxford, overseas students pay between £8,500 and £11,300 a year compared with £3,000 paid by students from Britain and Europe.

An Oxford university spokeswoman said the plan to recruit more foreign students was not a drive to boost the university's fee income. But she admitted it was difficult to compete with wealthy US universities, which offered generous scholarships.

First Published: Mar 25, 2006 12:49 IST