Concerned over the low levels of English language and communication skills among foreign students on its campus the JNTU Hyderabad plans to make it mandatory for foreign students to have TOEFL and IELTS scores for admission.

What prompted them to change the admission mode just one year after opening the portals for foreign students was the high percentage of failures and subsequent protests by the foreign students demanding moderate valuation. Out of the 350-odd students nearly 70 per cent failed to clear the examinations and more so in courses like MBA where language skills, rather than technical skills, are tested.

Most of these students are from Middle East and African countries; their English skills are very poor and they are not able to adjust to the fast paced teaching in India, admitted D.N. Reddy, Vice Chancellor, JNTU Hyderabad. “We realised the problems once they were admitted and the need to have a screening test for English language skills,” he said.

But the problem is not unique to JNTU alone. Osmania University, promoting itself as a centre of learning in foreign countries faces similar problems. Most of 4,000-odd OU foreign students are from Middle East and African countries and the former are particularly poor in English. To address this issue, OU has started an eight-month certificate course in English proficiency that can be taken before students enrol in the regular courses. “This year about 250 students have joined the course including students from China, Iraq and Iran,” says T.L.N. Swamy, Director, University Foreign Relations Office (UFRO).

Special classes for regular students through the ELTCs are also made mandatory to improve the skills and the scheme has given positive results. “There is a reasonable improvement,” Prof. Swamy admits. He says this problem is likely to increase as the UGC is selling the Indian education concept quite vigorously now. It is better to have a common national screening test in English for all foreign students on the lines of TOEFL or IELTS.

Universities don’t want to lose out on foreign students for the money they bring in apart from creating an international atmosphere that will benefit every one. The JNTU-H has generated Rs. 3 crores this year from foreign students charging US $ 2,500 to 3,000 from each student. OU too benefits to a great extent from this segment. Moreover, universities have some obligations to fulfil with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) sponsoring foreign students as a part of strengthening bi-lateral relations.