Worried traditional destinations for studying abroad are getting costlier? Cheer up! Here are some alternatives.

The rising cost of education in the West combined with the falling rupee has meant that traditional destinations for students intending to study abroad are getting increasingly unaffordable. However, new destinations have emerged for those seeking a reasonably priced international education.

Some of these are Asian countries, such as China and Hong Kong, which have become competitive education providers in recent years and figure in the top 50 of the Times Higher Education ranking and the QS World Universities ranking. Others, like Dubai have succeeded in getting reputed international universities establish their offshore campuses. Apart from academic merit and affordable fee structures, relatively easy admission systems, good facilities, and in some instances, attractive job opportunities are some of the factors that have attracted Indian students to these destinations.

CHINA

According to a report by the Ministry of External Affairs, the last few years have seen a significant increase in the number of Indian students choosing to study in China. While in January 2012 there were over 8,000 Indian students studying in various Chinese universities, in 2013, this number increased to 9,200 — 15 per cent more. Garima Arora, the China consultant at the India-China Economic and Cultural Council, corroborates, “There are thousands of Indian students studying in provinces across China today. Most of them are pursuing medicine.”

Yatindra Joshi, who recently completed his MBBS from the Chonquing Medical University in China, says, Pursuing medical education in India these days is becoming difficult for most students. China, on the other hand, offers admission based on Class XII results and a much better academic environment at a far lower cost. There is an emphasis on research and an excellent faculty. In fact one of my professors was a Nobel prize winner.”

While most courses for international students are offered in English, it is advisable for students to be open to learning the local language. Says Joshi, “International students have to take a Chinese language course in the first academic year. This familiarises you with the language and helps you with your day-to-day living, because most locals do not speak English. It also helps you in making friends, as you can communicate better. Moreover, for medical students it is absolutely important as we have to talk to local patients in the course of our studies.”

Also, unlike traditional destinations, China does not offer any extension on the student visa. If students wish to stay back after completing their studies and take up a job, they have to clear a language examination before securing a job permit.

Average cost of living per annum (including tuition fees, accommodation, food and travel): About Rs. 2.5 lakh.

For more information: Contact the India China Economic and Cultural Council (www.icec-council.org) and check the website of the Chinese embassy (in.china-embassy.org).

HONG KONG

With world class institutions that have excellent rankings, Hong Kong has, in recent years, emerged as one of Asia’s leading higher education destinations.

Moreover, its cosmopolitan character that blends both Chinese and Western cultures provides students a truly international experience.

Indians make up a major chunk of the non-Chinese community in Hong Kong, and its universities have a good number of local as well as non-local Indian students. Education consultant Viral Doshi reports an increasing interest in studying in Hong Kong in the recent years.

While a number of students are interested in finance-related courses, humanities is also gaining importance.

Lucrative job opportunities are a major draw for students. Says Saloni Atal, an undergraduate student at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), “Job opportunities for students in HK are quite promising because HK is one of the largest financial centres of the world.

HKU has a career centre which sends out notifications to all students about job offers on a daily basis and also organises sessions to help prepare students for job interviews. Several reputed companies hire students from HKU every year.”

Students can avail themselves of a year-long extension on their student visa after completing their studies to search for and take up jobs in Hong Kong.

For more information: http://studyinhongkong.edu.hk/

RUSSIA

Much like China, Russia is a sought-after destination for students keen on pursuing medical education. Popular Russian medical colleges, such as the Tver State Medical Academy, have hundreds of Indian students enrolled in them. The reasons are the same — ease of admission, excellent academic infrastructure and lower cost of education.

Dushyant Singhal spent eight years in Russia, completing both his undergraduate and postgraduate medical education from the Russian State Medical University, now known as the Russian National Research Medical University (RNRMU) in Moscow. He says, “RNRMU is one of the oldest medical schools in Russia and is well known among the medical fraternity even abroad. I was extremely happy to get admission here and the quality of education is so good that I also decided to complete my postgraduate studies here. In Russia, colleges are extremely well-equipped and students get the best facilities despite paying a lower fee.”

However, like China, even in Russia, students are advised to learn the local language. Singhal says that most universities teach Russian as an additional subject to familiarise students with the language. Tatiana Perova, Head of Russian Language Teaching-Training Centre at Rus Education India, adds, “Although these days many universities are offering courses in English, learning Russian will help the students better appreciate the local culture. They can also choose to take courses in the fine arts, humanities and other such subjects that are only taught in Russian.”

Additionally, Russia does not give any extension on the student visa, and students wanting to stay back and work after completing their studies need to a clear a language examination.

Average cost of living per annum (including tuition fees, accommodation, food and travel): Rs. 2.5 lakh to 3.5 lakh approximately.

For more information: Contact Rus Education (http://www.ruseducation.in/) and also read about education in Russia at www.russia.edu.ru

DUBAI

Home to offshore campuses of leading universities from around the world, including prestigious Indian institutes such as SP Jain and BITS, Dubai has slowly become a coveted international education destination. Most students wanting to study in Dubai are interested in business programmes as well as certain engineering disciplines like logistics, oil and petroleum, renewable energy, etc.

Proximity to India and attractive job opportunities are the other factors that make it a viable option for students keen on pursuing higher education abroad. Ankita Sudhir, who is pursuing M.Sc. Energy at the Dubai campus of the UK-based Heriot Watt University, says, “The quality of teaching is similar to that in the Edinburgh campus of the university. At the same time Dubai is closer home, and it also has more job opportunities compared to the U.K. and its current recession period.”

Education consultants Edwise International adds that academic flexibility is a major attraction for students in Dubai. “The classes are held in such a way that students can easily take up part-time jobs, balance their work with academics, and gain hands-on experience. International students can work part-time for 20 hours a week in free zone areas, once they seek permission from the university.”

Dubai is home to a large Indian population. Knowing the local language is not as important as it is for some of the other destinations. Hence, day-to-day living is somewhat easier for Indian students.

However, the UAE does not offer any extension on the student visa and students wanting to stay back must start looking for jobs before completing their studies to acquire a job permit and stay back.

Average cost of living per annum (including tuition fees, accommodation, food and travel): About Rs.12 lakh.

For more information: There are a number of private education consultants. Apart from that, you could look up the website of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority of the Government of Dubai (www.khda.gov.ae).

GERMANY

For students keen on living the European dream, Germany is an upcoming destination that offers the best of the West at affordable rates. According to a report from the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD), the German Academic Exchange service, the number of Indian students in Germany has increased enormously since 2008-09. From a little over 3,500 students at the time to more than 7,500 students today — it has grown steadily and is predicted to rise further. A majority of students pursue courses in mathematics, natural sciences and engineering.

Padmavathi Chandramouli, information and office manager at the DAAD information centre in Chennai, says, “Most universities in Germany are public-funded and either charge no tuition fee or an extremely nominal amount. Also there is no application fee and students only have to pay for the postage. This makes the cost of German education easy on the pocket, as students mainly have to worry about their living expenses.”

Despite this, academic rigour is not sacrificed and a number of German universities figure in the top 100 universities around the world in the Times Higher Education ranking and the QS World Universities ranking. Harita Natarajan, a postgraduate student at the Stuttgard University, says, “The German education system, especially in universities, focuses more on research and development. Industry tie-ups, projects from the German government and many such application-oriented research takes place in the university... (and) we (have) to do many group projects with real time data.”

Students are also enticed by the travel possibilities available to them. Harita reveals, “You get a vacation every semester (and) all it takes is an hour or two ride in the train to reach the neighbouring country.

In the past one-and-a-half years, I’ve travelled to the Netherlands, Italy, Austria, Luxembourg and Belgium.”

Also, unlike most other European countries, Germany still has a strong economic environment and students can seek an 18-month extension on their student visa to search for jobs.

Knowing the local language is a definite advantage for students keen on studying in Germany, even though the course may be in English.

Average cost of living per annum (including tuition fees, accommodation, food, and travel): About Rs. 7 lakh.

For more information: Contact the DAAD (www.daaddelhi.org)