It may not be the most preferred location, but Chennai is definitely catching up and the figures are proof of the fact. The number of students from foreign countries applying to city colleges that had increased by almost 20 per cent over the last three years has hit a new high this time.

“We are getting a hostel built at a cost of Rs. 18 crore for international students in Taramani. It will have a support centre and all facilities to make them feel at ease here,” said Madras University Vice-Chancellor G. Thiruvasagam.

Foreign students at the university mainly study specific subjects in Music, Anthropology and Public Administration. “The city is not often the first choice, especially for graduation. For most of us back there it is only Delhi or Kolkata. But I wanted to pursue my M. Phil in Medical Pathology, so I am here,” said Rosario Kevin, from Denmark. Besides a steady flow from Thailand, Mauritius, Italy, Kenya and Bhutan, the university this year has recorded an increase in the number of students from Sri Lanka, the U.K and France for research.

“This time, we have quite a good number of students from China and Korea,” says Prince Annadurai, admissions in charge, Madras Christian College. “Education in English is what these Chinese students are looking for and so they are willing to take up any of the popular courses,” he adds.

The online admission process initiated this year by some colleges and their high position on most all-India lists of best colleges are some of the factors that attracted students. Oscar C. Nigli, former director of Foreign Desk, Loyola College, points out that “the city is intellectually vibrant, safe and has a lower cost of living.”

B. Com with an IMS - (Information Management Systems), biological sciences, computer science and electronics are some of the more popular courses.

“They look for computer training in every course which is not available back home. Students come with an assurance from the respective governments that they will get placements as lecturer or bank official after finishing studies. The Indian degree is considered so high there that a few students get senior posts in universities there,” says K.E.N. Nalla Mohammed, academic director, Mohammed Sathak College of Arts and Science.

The college is one of the most preferred destinations in the city for foreign students, especially for those from Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Arab countries, who come because of the low cost of education.

“A student has to spend just about Rs 50,000 a year which includes lodging, food and tuition fee, way less than what they would have to pay in their countries, which have fewer colleges and almost no postgraduate courses,” Mr. Mohammed says.

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