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Indian students flock US institutes

Rahul Choudaha 

The United States has always been a popular destination for Indian students and has become even more popular with unattractiveness of the alternatives.

Recent Council of Graduate Studies (CGS) data, confirms increasing interest of Indian students for graduate programs in the US and also the diversion of some traffic from Australia and the UK due to restrictive visa policies and bleaker future prospects of employment and immigration.

An interesting trend for this year is higher acceptance of Indian students by institutions outside top-100. Number of applications from Indian students to institutions outside top-100 has increased by six per cent, however, number of offers by institutions has increased by 12 per cent, indicating higher willingness of institutions to accept Indian students.

This is also driven by financial urgency created due to state budget cuts, which is compelling many US public institutions to more actively looking for foreign students as they pay higher tuition fee.

Of the 185,000 Indian students enrolled in higher education institutions abroad, US leads with a share of nearly 55 per cent of all Indian students followed by the UK and Australia, according to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization data.

Further, majority of Indian students enroll at graduate programmes, especially in engineering related fields. For example, 57 per cent of all Indian students in the US were enrolled at master's level programme in engineering and computer science in 2009, according to National Science Foundation.

Supply of Indian graduates has increased enormously, especially in engineering programs which feed demand for MS programmes in the US. The capacity of engineering programmes in India increased by more than 20 per cent in 2007-08 or 100,000 more students which resulted in more students graduating this year.

Indian economy has grown by less than 10 per cent while number of graduates has increased by more than 20 per cent, resulting in at least 10 per cent educated youth which considers foreign education as a better alternative than being unemployed.

While higher education sector expanded it came at the expense of quality and hence there are still limited options of good quality education. Consider the case of a Sri Ram College of Commerce in Delhi which required 100 per cent marks for admissions.

Increasing prosperity is supporting affordability and aspirations for undergraduate programmes. For example, India added nearly 22,000 new US$ millionaires in 2010.

US has always been a popular destination for Indians and has become even more popular due to larger shifts in the other options available to Indian students.

The writer is director of development and innovation with World Education Services, a non-profit organisation with 35 years of experience in international education.

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First Published: Thu, September 01 2011. 00:06 IST