The experience of studying in foreign universities is relished by Indian students. When they come back to finish their degrees here, they know the world around them has turned inside-out.

To study a course, partly in India, and partly in a foreign university, is not an opportunity that many get. Some universities and colleges have made this possible for those students who opt for this. And, those who have chosen this believe that they have had the best experience of both worlds.

Students get to spend a semester or a year of their course in a foreign university, after which they return to their parent institution to complete the course to get the degree. While some are dual-degree programmes where the degree is awarded by both the Indian as well as the foreign university, the others are programmes where the degree is only from the Indian university. Universities and colleges permit this arrangement on a credit-transfer basis.

Though it is a given that the institutions that permit this arrangement are few and far between, students in Coimbatore who shared their experiences with Education Plus about their study abroad, recommend that more such opportunities should be provided by institutions to help students get a broad perspective of higher education outside India.

Parthiban T. Prakash, second-year M.Sc. Biotechnology student of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), and Philomin Juliana, second-year student of M. Tech. Biotechnology Business Management of TNAU, spent a year at Cornell University. Back in Coimbatore to complete their respective courses, they are trying to implement the lessons they learnt in the U.S. in the best way possible.

Manas Ranjan Biswal, Sunny Tantia, and Sai Phani Deja Balusu, all final-year students of Sandwich Mechanical Engineering of PSG College of Technology, spent a semester each at Hochschule Esselingen University of Applied Sciences in Germany, University of South Australia in Australia, and University of Arkansas, the U.S., respectively. J. Deepika is an MBA student of PSG Institute of Management, studying in Hof University of Applied Sciences in Germany. From their feedback, it was evident that there were many systems that they believe would improve the Indian higher education system, if adapted.

The flexibility of the curriculum allows total freedom to the student to choose the courses he/she desires. There is also an option to quit midway with alternative arrangements without losing out on time. Each paper has a different pattern and hence the assessment is also different. The class time is less and the topics covered are more and in detail.

To discourage students from copying assignments from books and other material, the length is restricted to a single page or two pages. Even in this, reference has to be attributed. In some cases, an open book system is followed for examination.

Teachers

Most of the teachers have worked in the industry before taking up the teaching profession. Hence, the teaching is more practical-oriented. Every class taught is recorded and uploaded on the Internet so that students who are absent do not miss out. Communication is open between the students and teachers. Classes are interactive.

In any ideal case, only 40 per cent of the time is dedicated to teaching, while 30 per cent is for problem-solving, 20 per cent is for student-teacher interaction, and 10 per cent is for student-student interaction. Teachers meet students on a one-to-one basis regularly with appointments. Feedback is given only to the individual and his grade is not made known to anyone else. Most often students get to live on their own — maintain a house and cook. Multi-culturalism is a way of life. Sports is given equal importance. If there is a university match, then the whole student population is there to witness it. There are some weekends when professors do not give any assignments to encourage students to travel with their friends to some nearby places of interest. Non-conformity to the laid down system invites severe penalties.

What’s lacking ?

Orientation of teachers is curbed by a stifling system, where they cannot exercise freedom in restructuring curriculum/syllabus in its delivery and assessment patterns. They are burdened much by administrative work that takes away time from their academic activities. The bond between the student and teacher is not as strong as it should be.

Regulations of regulatory bodies and affiliation of the universities do not allow for flexibility. The curriculum load is heavy, hence there is pressure to complete the portion by making the students cram.

Placement is associated with the institution, hence it is an added pressure for the institution that distracts it from the actual focus. Learning-oriented teaching has given way to learning for marks. There is no equal respect for all courses. Assessment is based only on examinations and is not application-oriented.