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Education Abroad

Study Abroad - An Overview

Dr. T P Sethumadhavan

With the inclusion of higher education as a sector in the General Agreement on Trade in Services, we are committed towards the four strands of trade in education services viz. consumption abroad, cross border supply, natural presence and commercial presence. Of these, consumption abroad calls for the presence of Indian students in other countries. Due to spectacular growth in Science and Technology, India has achieved the global recognition as a country which could provide skilled manpower capable of contributing to the economy of different countries. The status of Indians as skilled workers and migrating brains has undergone changes as innovators developing linkages with other countries by establishing institutions abroad. Though everybody is well aware of the growing importance of international standards in higher education, a major handicap in realizing this objective is the absence of relevant information about the scope, opportunities, choice of institutions etc. in foreign countries.
One of the founding principles of the USEFI (United States Education Foundation in India) is that when Indians and Americans study together, conduct joint research and engage in educational exchange activities , they are laying the foundation for better relations between the US and India. The stagnation of employment in developed countries and apparent recovery in developing countries after the Great Recession of 2008-09 have renewed perceptions of a global shift in employment to the developing world, particularly in manufacturing activities.
In the era of Globalization, Global village concept is acquiring momentum in the overseas education sector of the country. Study abroad is the surest way to open the students' mind to the world and break free the cocoon of domesticity that surrounds most Indians. Overseas education market has changed beyond belief. Large number of universities and schools from different countries are considering India as a potential recruitment center. Apart from UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and Switzerland, even countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Russia, China and Italy has started recruiting students from the country.

Even though the basic objective of education is to attain knowledge, develop skills and attitudinal changes, the main goal is to acquire a better job. Overseas education has already been considered as the prerequisite for getting better career. Selecting the right course or the right country for studying abroad is really a difficult task. Some of the key questions like, Where should I go? Which course is best for me? How do I process every thing?, often confront every aspirant. Academic excellence, global edge in faculty and students, better facilities, resources and faculty, variety of options, flexible curricula, cutting edge technology, hands on training, better support services for international students, financial assistance, challenging research opportunities and adaptation to different social environment are some of the major advantages.
Good academic merit, individual capabilities including analytical skills, suitability to course, college and proficiency in English language require more consideration before proceeding for study abroad programmes.
Innovative teaching makes classroom interactive and interesting thereby igniting and inspiring the minds of students. Green job is employment in any industry contributing to preserve or restore environmental quality in the sector and allowing sustainable development. It could be in research, construction and monitoring of power plant, industrial efficiency including cogeneration, plant efficiency and carbon sequestration. There exists a huge gap in curriculum, teaching methods, research resources and pedagogical issues between India and developed countries.

Study abroad - Prospects, Prerequisites and Procedures
Recently more number of Indian students are interested to pursue education abroad. Even though their preferred destinations are United States of America, UK and Canada, some of them prefer Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and other countries in the European Union.
Even though overseas education has better prospects, series of processes are needed for getting admission abroad. It can be termed as requirements for education abroad. It is a fact that in developed countries, our graduate programmes are undergraduate programmes. Likewise our post graduate programmes are considered as graduate programmes. 16 years of education from first standard onwards is the basic pre requisite for graduate programmes abroad.
Overseas education system differs from Indian education system in teaching and learning situations. While in India emphasis will be on theoretical teaching and exams, foreign education system lays emphasis on skill development, group discussions, practical and presentations. Continuous evaluation of the students based on their performance will be given priority in the overseas system of education.
Good academic record is given top priority for getting admission to a foreign university. Extracurricular activities would be given weightage. Moreover proficiency test scores, statement of purpose and letters of recommendation are equally important. Consider your suitability to the course, college and adaptability to the culture of the country. It is advisable to collect information about the country, its education system, language, food, lifestyle, etc.
Through overseas education, student will be shouldering his own responsibilities. Some times, he would find it difficult to adjust with different situations. He is expected to be independent and self-reliant to do his own planning for studies to exploit the overseas education potential.
Studying abroad might not be expensive, if you plan well in advance. Financial aid for overseas education is limited to deserving meritorious candidates. So it is advisable to start the search for financial aid early, if you want to seek admission to a programme that is beyond your budget. Numerous universities and colleges offer financial aid in the form of awards, scholarships, fellowships, tuition waivers, teaching and research assistantships. Moreover various agencies and institutions offer loans, loan scholarships and gift scholarships.

The cost of living, which includes boarding, books, clothing, transportation, health insurance and other personal expenses, can be reduced up to a certain extent through strategic planning. These expenses can be cut reduced by sharing accommodation, preparation of food, books and study materials.

Indian students are known for their commitment, sincerity, knowledge, skill and hard work. Make use of libraries, Laboratories and other facilities and establish rapport with staff. Regular interaction will help you to learn and speak foreign language very fluently. Students are required to develop attitudinal changes through critical thinking and learning behaviour that will help them to take right judgment of the situation.

Selection criteria depend on the following parameters:

•  Good academic merit
•  Individual capabilities
•  Suitability to the course and college
•  Adaptability to the culture of the country
•  A fair knowledge of the language
•  Independence and self-reliance
•  Rapport with staff
•  Analytical skills
•  Computer proficiency

Criteria for admission:

Criteria for selection in universities in general are:
•  The undergraduate institute you attended
•  GRE / TOEFL / IELTS Score
•  Your Grade Point Average (GPA) or cumulative
•  Percentage, rank in class
•  Letters of recommendation
•  Overall coherence, work experience, etc.
•  Research interest
•  Skills: programming, summer work experience
•  Degree you intend to work towards PhD /MS
•  Personal qualities, motivation, reliability, sincerity, maturity, integrity,                    communication skills.
•   Extracurricular activities, volunteering leadership roles.

Application Components

1. Application form must be complete in every respect.
2.  Covering letter.
3.  Application fee cheque. In case the fee is waived or deferred, enclose a photocopy of the letter. Application fee can be transferred through internet banking.
4.  Statement of purpose.
5.  Letters of recommendation (unless they are required to be mailed directly to the concerned university).
6.  Photocopies of test score reports.
7.  Financial statement.
8.  Photocopy of any important certificate you may like to enclose.

* You should start the process of applying before your graduation.

Statement of Purpose (SOP)
Statement of purpose is one of the essential components of application procedure for getting admission in a foreign University. It basically consists of your personal details, factors that have defined your career path so far, your future plans, and what interests you professionally.

A few important points that you must bear in mind while writing your SOP are:
• It is suggested that SOP should reflect your confidence, motivation and ability to successfully pursue the intended course of study.
• When a University / Institute asks you a particular question, you should not reply in a hurry but analyze the question carefully and reply to all aspects of the question.

Letters of Recommendation
This forms one of the crucial parts of your admission procedure in a foreign university. Based on these, the university authorities will be able to assess your credentials independently. Before approaching someone for a recommendation letter, ensure that the recommending person is one with high professional standing and by virtue of knowing both you and your career plans; can recommend your application. Moreover, your Recommendation Letter must spell out the positive attributes in you.

• If you have graduated from a deemed university, you should send official documents clarifying the status of the university to the foreign university where you apply.

• Generally those passing their qualifying examination through distance education mode are not considered at par with full-time programmes but recently some selected universities have started to accept students passing from distance education institutions.

• If you have acquired degree from a foreign university in India, duly recognized by the United States' Accreditation Board, it is considered at par with those offered to regular students in the US.

• Universities in the US consider degrees accredited and recognized by the Indian government. Therefore, the fact should be made clear in your application.

• In case, there is a change in the name of the university from which you have passed your qualifying exam, you should submit necessary documents like a copy of the prospectus or a letter from the Registrar of the University or indicate a website with the changed name.


Overseas education needs one year strategic planning and evaluation. Then only easy access to foreign universities will materialize. Minimum one-year preparatory time is needed for fulfilling the envisaged goals. In American, Canadian and European universities, academic year will start from October onwards. Even though some of the universities admit students for the winter semester during February, Indian students prefer to join during the pleasant spring season.

Calendar of activities

During September, the student has to decide the area in which he is interested to pursue the higher studies and collect information about the universities. Shortlist the choices. Register and apply for the qualifying examination and admission requirements like TOEFL / IELTS, GRE / GMAT, CGFNS, etc. Check the websites of the selected universities and download the application form during October. Collect detailed information including the list of relevant dead lines.
During November, after carefully reading the instructions, fill-up the application form and send it via e-mail to the Professor of the concerned department. Application form must be complete in all aspects. It must be send along with the structured curriculum vitae and Statement of Purpose. Contact the universities for ensuring the receipt of the filled-in application form during December. Collect details about the financial aids like Scholarships / Fellowships, etc during January and the dead lines are mostly 31st January. During February follow up the application and reply promptly. Never send a reply without considering the envisaged objectives. Some times you will get admission during February itself.
From March to June ensure whether the qualifying examination scores have reached the universities of your choice. Wait patiently for the admission decision from the respective universities. You can contact the Indian students of your university of choice and try to apply for residence near the campus. Admission offer will reach you during June-July. During that period you can arrange the needed documents for visa interview and travel plans. Complete the visa formalities including interview during August itself. During September you can leave the country for foreign education.

             Dr.T.P.Sethumadhavan is Asst Director, AH Dept, Govt of Kerala, Visiting Scientist, Smithsonian Instn, Washington DC, USA, Research Fellow, University of Reading, UK, Member, CEC Commission, IUCN, South East Asian Countries, Coulmnist-Mathrubhumi and other leading dailies and publications, Career and Educational Consultant and authored 19 books and several articles both in English and Malayalam.


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