Nowadays, the trends for studying abroad have shown an upward surge. The rising population levels of the students and researchers in India have triggered this phenomenon. There is no serious debate about the difference in the educational norms in the West and those in India; the Western societies are much ahead of us in terms of quality education.
The inquisitive students of India certainly do well after studying in educational institutions abroad. The pragmatic and scientific approach of the educational institutions of the West gives the students an edge over those who get an education in India. Further, research students also find that their efforts are very much productive (and respected) in foreign countries and not in India. This unique feature of education in alien lands has made our students queue up for admissions into foreign universities.
However, the grass may not always be greener in distant lands. There are some pitfalls and problems associated with education in foreign countries. Let us analyse the pros and cons of education abroad. We would like to make a rational assessment of the whole scenario in the context of the current social, economic and political scenarios prevalent in India and in the countries where the students like to go for studies. Advanced nations like the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are offering professional and non-professional courses in various streams of education.
Some of the streams include major engineering disciplines, pure sciences, architecture, medicine, surgery, arts, English language, computer science and engineering, nursing, management, nuclear engineering, publishing, printing technology, plastics technology, fashion design, textile engineering, space research and food sciences.
The courses are offered for undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate degrees. The academic sessions begin in January (Winter Session), September (Autumn Session) and March (Spring Session), though some universities also offer four sessions for admission. The students are required ‘to appear in the tests that are specially conducted by the educational testing institutions abroad (like those conducted by the Educational Testing Service at Princeton, New Jersey). If the candidates clear the tests with good scores, they are eligible for admission to those universities that accept the results of such institutes.
The students then apply for admission and send their marks sheets (of the entrance tests), records of academic qualifications, a note on their abilities and limitations in the context of the course applied for, their financial status, support of a relative abroad and some useful academic references. Their academic records are scrutinised thoroughly by the universities and colleges and the students are admitted if they fulfil the pre-specified criteria.
The students are then informed about the admissions and they are supposed to get the students’ visas (normally, HI visa for admission to the universities in the USA). When the visas are issued, they are required to make preparations for enough of resources for their studies, board and lodging in the foreign country. The students join the university from the session that has already been decided.
They are also required to pay the fees and for boarding and lodging in advance for the first academic year. When a student gets admitted to a foreign university- or college, he becomes thrilled and exhilarated. A bright future beckons him in a distant land and he gears up for the testing times that lie ahead. Some students are offered scholarships and study grants.
The universities offer the scholarships depending upon the funds available for the same. The admissions committee decides the number of scholarships and the candidates who would get them after careful scrutiny. The past academic performances of the candidates as well as the marks obtained in the admission tests are the major criteria. The students of undergraduate courses are not offered any scholarships but exceptions are also there to this general rule.
The students of graduate and postgraduate courses are eligible for scholarships if they fulfil the criteria mentioned earlier. Some students of graduate and postgraduate courses are also eligible for teaching assignments in the department in which, they study. For that purpose, they have to prove their teaching abilities and are required to possess the knowledge about the subject to be taught. The total course fees for an undergraduate degree arc in the range of US$ 5,000-8,000 per academic session comprising two semesters of six months each. The course fees for the graduate and postgraduate courses vary from US$ 8,000 to US$ 14,000 per academic session, depending upon the nature of the course.
Visa expenses, travelling expenses, board and lodging expenses and the sundry expenses during die stay abroad are in addition to the course fees. As a rule of thumb, the student would be required to pay US$ 200-400 per month for the food, accommodation and other living expenses in a foreign university. Entertainment expenses are not included in this estimate.
The total cost of study abroad on a per annum basis would vary from US$ 12,000 to US $ 18,000 per annum. The student has to slog for hours in order to get the degree or diploma he is pursuing for. This puts a great burden on his eyes, brain and physique. The student would also be required to participate in physical activities, games and other events that are vital for his personality development (like extempore contests, debates, quiz contests, music competitions, painting exhibitions, competitions and political debates).
He would not remain a bookworm throughout life. If he becomes a doctor after getting a degree from a professional medical college of repute, his lifestyle and working hours would be different from those of other professionals. He would be able to enjoy his life in the foreign country, though he would have little time for leisure. Similarly, an engineer would be exposed to the rest technologies in his discipline.
When he is back in India after a short educational stint abroad, he is likely to get a job as a senior engineer at the very beginning of his career. Normally, the undergraduate courses are for four or five years, graduate courses are for two years (additional six months are required for the submission of thesis) and the postgraduate courses have a duration ranging from three years to five years (that includes the time period for the preparation and submission of thesis).
Research students can go back to their home countries after they have attended the academic sessions and have also conducted the research activities required for completion of their theses. There are admissions to the Doctorate of Science (D Sc) courses as well but the entrants are very senior professionals, engineers and scientists.
They are required to put in at least twenty years of their useful lives in a particular field, normally related to engineering, sciences and medicine. The objective of conducting these rare courses is to develop the knowledge base in that particular discipline so that the human race could solve those riddles that remain a mystery for it.