A relatively low cost education, English-medium instruction and MBA programmes not found in other countries have attracted many foreign students to India. Hyderabad with four large Central universities has become a hub for foreign students from Central Asia, Africa and, even Europe. While the students at JNTU and Hyderabad Central have experienced some disturbance because of recurring strikes, the 3,500 foreign students at Osmania University have had their exams and second semester postponed for two months.
Mohammad Rakhmati, an Iranian law student in his final semester at Osmania Law School, said he had looked at institutes in Mysore and Pune, but picked Hyderabad because he “found Hyderabad more peaceful.” But now Mr. Rakhmati is unsure whether the academic year will be cancelled or postponed; he has lost trust in the university system and is going home.
Foreign students’ views
Students like Mr. Rakhmati are self-financed, and many have sold their business or quit their jobs and moved their families to India in order to pursue an education. Others, mainly from Central Asian countries, come on scholarship through ICCR, an NGO that offers scholarships to encourage international study of Indian culture. Shahnoza Sodikova, an MBA student in her final year at Osmania, said that before the strikes began at the end of November her classes were fine.
When the exams were postponed and the strikes stretched on for months, she became worried. Once the strikes began, students like Ali Roomy, an Iraqi classmate of Ms. Shahnoza, began to read articles and study the historical basis of the protests. He says he even empathises with the students who support Telangana; however, he is worried that all the postponements will lead to a repeat of 1969, when the academic year was completely cancelled. Since November, Mr. Roomy has met the Vice-Chancellor of Osmania twice to discuss the situation and postponement of exams.
“Both times the VC said that there would be exams, that everything would be ok. But everything here is in doubt,” Roomy says. He adds that if the year is cancelled, or exams postponed indefinitely, he will leave for home.
The foreign student community in Hyderabad is a self-perpetuating organism; one student comes to study, tells his friend, and soon, they too make the trip to seek a better education in India.
So what if foreigners leave? On an average, foreign students pay 15 to 20 times more than Indian students for one year of the course study. They rent apartments, go on vacations, and invite their family and friends for extended stays. Thus far, the university has taken no stance in defence of its foreign population. Most students are waiting to see what happens come May. It is too late in the year to transfer to another institute in India, plus with fees paid, many cannot afford to enrol in another college until next year.
Most of them wish that they would be assured somehow that the whole year would not be lost. While they understand that the university cannot prevent or predict future bandhs, international students say they want a plan for separate examination should the situation worsen.
(The writer is a freelance journalist from the U.S.)