Overseas education has turned costlier, yes. But rest assured, local institutes are offering many international collaborations and student exchange programmes.

When Vibhav Singh wanted to pursue postgraduate studies, he was faced with a predicament. Like most others, he aspired for an international degree that would add tremendous value to his CV. However, the risks were too high. “It would mean a huge student loan, and thanks to global recession, job opportunities abroad are not so bright.” With these fears playing on his mind, he decided on the next best option — a local institute that would offer him adequate yet affordable global exposure.

“I searched for courses offering international exposure at reputed Indian institutes, and eventually took up the Postgraduate Programme in International Management at MDI, Gurgaon. The course was offered in collaboration with ESCP Europe, and part of the programme involved studying at their campus abroad.”

With the ever-increasing cost of international education, many students today are looking at such options to fulfil their international ambitions. In answer to this growing demand, a number of local institutes are collaborating with foreign universities to provide their students the best of both worlds.

Tie-ups

The last 10 years have seen a massive increase in international collaborations owing to factors such as ever-improving modes of communication, opening up of the economy and increasing income levels which has enabled more people to afford better education. These factors have made India a lucrative destination for foreign education providers. A study by the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) revealed that in 2010, more than 600 foreign education providers were operating in India. D.S. Chauhan, Secretary General of the AIU, says that saturation in their local markets coupled with a more encouraging attitude of the Indian government towards such universities is helping in drawing more foreign players into the education sector.

Aman Singh, project director at Ashoka University which launched the Young India Fellowship, a postgraduate liberal arts scholarship, in collaboration with the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania is optimistic. “India is an important destination for such universities and they are definitely interested in collaborating with credible and like-minded institutions here.”

Dual degree

Among the most popular forms of securing an overseas experience through local institutes are twinning programmes whereby students complete their study partly in India and partly overseas. These programmes usually award students a degree from the overseas institute. They may also culminate in a dual degree — one from the local institute and one from the overseas partner. Such programmes, however, are generally in the business and management domain.

However, education counsellor Viral Doshi says that with more Indian students opting for diverse disciplines, options to pursue such arrangements are opening up in other fields as well. Singh is looking seriously at such arrangements in liberal arts courses at Ashoka University, when it begins full-fledged operations in August next year, while the Karnataka-based Manipal University has been offering an International twinning engineering programme for several years now.

Student exchange

Youngsters are often eager to see the world and experience different cultures. Bearing this in mind, several Indian institutes have started international exchange programmes wherein students get to spend up to a semester overseas. Says Professor Chetan Subramanian, Chairperson, Office of International Affairs at IIM Bangalore (IIM-B), “We started our exchange programme more than 10 years ago and have tie-ups with over 50 institutes across the world where students pursuing our postgraduate programme can choose to go on an exchange programme.”

The exchange programme at IIM-B is perhaps the oldest of its kind. However, Subramanian says that student exchanges are becoming increasingly common as institutes wake up to the importance of cross-cultural interaction. “With increasing globalisation, cross cultural interaction has become mandatory for students as many of them join multinational companies in India or work overseas after completing their education.” Students can enquire with the institute they plan to join to know of such programmes. Alternatively, they could approach bodies such as the United States-India Educational Foundation and British Council to know about the academic exchange programmes.

Other collaborative measures

A truly global educational experience is not restricted to twinning programmes and student exchange. It also includes faculty exchange, joint research, curriculum development and sharing of resources such as academic journals, books, and technology. These help local institutes provide a more wholesome education to their students. Professor G. Venkiteswaran, Assistant Dean at BITS Pilani, corroborates, “As far back as the 70s we collaborated with the MIT Ford Foundation for joint research and faculty development. This exposed us to the best international practices in education and helped us pass these on to our students through means such as our Practice School, which was set up in 1973. The school ensures that our curriculum is practical-oriented by keeping the students and faculty in constant touch with the needs and wants of industry.”

Such collaborative measures also provide students a rich academic experience. Mohini Gupta, a recent graduate of Ashoka University’s Young India Fellowship recounts, “We had faculty from the University of Pennsylvania and were exposed to their distinctive ways of teaching. They used a number of audio-visual aids, made us work on presentations, encouraged interactivity and had a more informal relationship with us. They also gave us a lot of reading material without which the class would not make sense, but I enjoyed every session so much that I was actually inspired to study.”

Educationists conclude that international collaborations are a, “win-win situation”, as they provide students local understanding coupled with a global outlook. Also, considering the present job situation, where a number of students are coming back to India after completing their international degrees, such courses have the latent advantage of helping students build strong local networks while giving them enriching international exposure.