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Globe trotter: Emerging destinations overseas

Astaggering six billion rupees is spent annually by Indian students studying abroad, which is almost twice the annual budget spent on education by the government. For decades Indian students preferred the US, UK and Australia for higher education . However, the tightening of rules and low economic opportunities in these traditional destinations have opened options, enticing Indian students to look at institutes in Canada, Europe, New Zealand and Singapore. Courses in professional disciplines such as engineering and IT are still the most sought-after , as they are seen to be the most employable.


Singapore has benefited the most. For Indians , it meets almost all features of a familiar culture, weather and world-class universities. The indigenous Singapore universities are highly selective, but offer generous funding of 75% tuition grant for those who make the grade (three-year bond). However, many are looking at the numerous private universities, which offer accredited degree programmes of universities of UK and Australia at lower costs. Academic institutes in Hong Kong and Malaysia are making it to student lists due to low cost and employment prospects, though the numbers are still small.


UK has scrapped the two-year post-study leave to remain in the country, replacing it with a new policy that requires a student to hold a job that pays around 20,000 pounds before applying for a visa. This has dashed the hopes of Indian students to recover costs by working, as there are very few bursaries or scholarships available. 
Countries in Europe are moving in to fill the gap by offering more courses taught in English. Sweden, Denmark, Italy and Ireland are offering a number of scholarships and the cost of living too is low. Yet, the numbers applying are limited to a few adventurous Indians due to language and cultural barriers . France and Spain are emerging as attractive destinations as many of their institutions are in the global rankings, which is a big factor for the brand-conscious Indian. Germany is attracting more numbers due to its academic excellence and merit-based scholarships, especially in engineering and bio-sciences . While it is known for automobiles, aeronautical, mechanical and environmental engineering, it is marketing its courses in business and economics as well. "The student visa can be converted into a residence permit for employment and is issued for up to five years,'' said the director of the German Academic Exchange Service's (DAAD) regional office in New Delhi. With fee subsidies and government stipends, the tuition fee is low even though living costs are still high. 
The European Union's Erasmus Mundus programme, launched in 2004, has helped 2,000 Indian students study in institutions at very low costs in Europe including in Germany, France and Spain.


The country is attracting a large number of Indian students due to easier norms for admissions, visas, with a perception of lower costs and long-term immigration. Tourism is still the largest employment sector. Institutes offer one and two-year diplomas, which lead to residency as soon as students get a related job. Currently, courses in hotel management, cookery and management are in high demand.


Under the new regulations, international students who graduate with a Bachelor or Masters degree after studying for at least two years in Australia, would be able to work in the country for two years after graduation. Those with research Masters degrees may remain for three years poststudy and work. Merit-based funding is being offered by individual universities and departments.


The ageing demography of Canada being well known, young Indians see it as a country which needs them and where they can be a part of the growth story. Canada is becoming increasingly popular with easier work permits, residency permits and even immigration. 
Universities are known for high quality academics with tougher entry norms. Eight Canadian universities have come together to announce funding for Indian students at over $4 million, including the new Globalink Canada-India Graduate Fellowship , which will provide up to 51 scholarships . The trend of Indians going abroad to study will continue to be driven by the aspiration to improve quality of life through quality education. Many take the risk of loans to fund overseas education, which makes employment options and visa rules key factors in student choices. US still remains the land of education opportunity despite slowdown, as returning students have an edge vis-a-vis jobs in premier companies in India and in the Asean region. Hence, a complex interplay of variables makes it difficult to predict the direction and of the continual growth in student numbers going abroad.


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