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What is the Indian perspective on top study destinations?

Overseas education has always been a booming industry, and in billion-plus and burgeoning India, its effects can only be reaped. Surplus demand for the best domestic colleges, and unrealistically high entrance requirements, set off around 400,000 young Indians overseas in search of a more rounded education each year.

Humber College in Canada makes twice-yearly trips to India to keep agents and students updated about its offer

“At one level, the US commands a higher social prestige and at another level, it offers higher prospects of career advancement”

This throws opens a huge market for recruiters and foreign universities to tap into. But for Indian students, the Return-on-Investment in foreign education is an important and growing concern. Today, jobs and immigration top their agenda, as observed at any agent fair, trade exhibition, online or in the media. So how are the leading study destinations meeting their needs?

The UK’s economic backlash: the points-based system

The effect of reforms such as tougher English requirements for visa holders and the axing of the post study work (PSW) visa have hit Indian enrolments hard – they fell 24% in 2012, according to UCAS. Ravi Lochan Singh, MD of Global Reach, a pan-India career counselling service that offers advice in overseas education, believes the actual drop in fresh student visas issued could be as much as 55%. ”I have noticed newspaper articles that show the fall in UK “enrolments”…while I am talking of fresh student visas.”

According to Singh, Australia has shown the exact inverse growth, with a 55% rise in Indian student visa issuance.

What made studies in the UK most attractive to Indian students until a year ago, were single-year Masters programmes combined with a two-year work visa. That is now no longer available to students, who can be employed only by a licensed sponsor for roles earning a minimum salary of £20,000 per year.

That said, many of India’s political class and educated professionals living in India hold degrees from top institutions in the UK and there is the additional allure for many that the UK is a nexus for south Asian communities and often, family ties. Its appeal will not wane, but numbers who can afford to study without “safe” job prospects in the UK will decline.

“The UK cannot be expected to play home to students who are seeking a back-handed entry on the pretext of a degree”

But Natasha Chopra, head of mega-agency The Chopras, admits there was also an issue with abuse of the student route that had to be addressed. “Countries like the UK with a population of 65 million cannot be expected to play home to students who are seeking a back-handed entry into colleges on the pretext of a degree, paying the lowest of fees only to end up working in a garage or in small time fast food chains unrelated to their studies.”

And Navitas, a major university pathway providers that attracts many Indians to the UK each year, says the Indian market (the UK’s second biggest after China) remains vital; its agents visit India twice a year especially around peak student intakes. Sushant Sareen, India’s marketing manager for Navitas, shrugs off the impact of UK’s new visa rules, saying that the market and the Indian students now understand each other: “In fact this has regulated the quality of students we get.”

Canada: An Ageing Nation

As the UK shuts it doors, Canada is fast gaining a reputation for flexible migration rules. But there are multiple reasons why the maple leaf draws thousands of Indians students each year.

“Location matters,” explains Tania Sherwood, international recruitment manager for Humber College, Toronto, who visits her agents in New Delhi more than twice a year to help them counsel students looking for a Canadian education. “There is a big Indian community in Toronto. Lots of families are living there and most Indian students want to live close to home, and there is great transportation to be relied on.”

Humber is a Toronto-based community college with three campuses, having fast grown a reputation in India for its global business management programmes. “Indian agents know so much about Humber and Canada itself, over 20 years of relationship building, that I don’t think I am needed anymore unless as a face of goodwill in these parts,” says Sherwood.

“There is a big Indian community in Toronto”

Like Humber, there are over 90 other colleges in Canada that have upped their international engagement in the past few years. Of these, a niche group of 38 have piloted a partnership project called the Student Partners Programme (SPP) with Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s visa offices in India and China to fast-track their student visas.

Canadian community colleges do not lag far behind the better known universities. Building on specialised vocational expertise, a one-year diploma from a community college is Canada’s best offering for that ‘Canadian edge’ in the marketplace.

Fresh legislation allows students enrolled into a one-year programme at any Canadian educational institution, a one-year work permit, with the benefit of being allowed to apply for permanent residency subsequently. In fact, mere admission into a Canadian college gives students the right to apply for entry into the workforce. It is this parity and equal footing with other Canadians in the marketplace that makes studying in Canada rewarding for so many Indians.

Saurabh Malhotra manages the recruitment for Fanshawe College in India. He says that while just 14,000 Indian students went to Canada in 2012 (low compared to the 75,000 that chose Australia at its peak in 2009) there is much potential for this to rise. The caveat however is significant delays in visas processing times which still do clog the sector.

Globalised Germany

Already a popular country for providing education at ‘low or no’ tuition fees, a strong international focus, and offering diverse study options that are both theory and practice based, foreign postgraduates have even more reason to be thrilled by the increased number of English language courses on offer. Living costs are low too, at as little as €740 per month. Handsome scholarships are also offered across disciplines from automotive engineering (most popular) and public policy, to international media studies. [more>]

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