A foreign education can mean different things. For some, it is the experience, for some it is the gateway to better jobs overseas. The experience stays with you forever, as does the painful process of repaying education loans.
A couple of weeks ago, some Indian journalists were invited to the United Kingdom for a road trip across Wales to see for themselves the status of university education there, post extra-visa restrictions and higher tuition fees. Travelling across the country, the journalists met the best of them in their respective fields. Professors, administrators, scientists and research projects – the best universities and the best they had to offer to an overseas student were all on display.
The first stop was Cardiff City, the capital of Wales and home to its best and biggest education institution -- Cardiff University. “We are a research intensive university and a fortune is spent in research grants every year,” said Cardiff University Pro-Vice-Chancellor Hywel Thomas, adding that his team visits India every year and has a meet and greet session with prospective students.
Cardiff already has tie-ups with Indian institutions with the most successful being the partnership between Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies and the Asian College of Journalism in Chennai. The arrangement allows a student to top-up his Journalism diploma with an M.A. from Cardiff. The best part is that the student only has to spend three months in Cardiff while the remaining course is done in the home city of Chennai.
A few hours drive from the Capital is the seaside Swansea University. Big scientific research is the focal point here with Engineering and Medical research occupying prime space. University professors admitted that they had to be published in international journals or face the prospect of a demotion or even losing their jobs.
Snazzy innovative projects in the making and awe-inspiring designs were also on the show here. Except for the Abby housing the main administrative office which has remnants of the Victorian architecture prevalent in most universities in the U.K, the rest of the university buildings were starkly modern. Some of the architectural designs, have been given by none other than the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles.
Also along the seaside is the pretty university town of Aberystwyth. Gothic architecture is abundant and most of the buildings are within walking distance from each other. Established in 1872, it is the oldest university in Wales. Here too, science and research rules with Computer Science being the most sought after, but there is also something else. “We have an undergraduate degree programme that concentrates only on theatre,’ said Dr. Jamie Medhurst, who heads the department of theatre, film and television studies. Next up, further north, was the Bangor University. Set at the foothills of the Snowdonia National Park, it is also on the border of the river Menai. The township, built around the university is surrounded by hills and lakes and all the buildings are reachable on foot. Again, the university’s science research projects were the main show. “We are developing a technology to identify fish that is caught illegally,” said Gary Carvalho, professor in-charge of project “Fish Pop Trace”, adding that the same technology had been used to solve a local murder. Agricultural research for improved food crops were being carried out with successful implementation records in Africa and to some extent India, said Dr. Einir Young, Director of the College of Natural Sciences. Other universities visited by the delegation were the Cardiff Metropolitan University, Glamorgan University and Glyndwr University.
Most of the universities have a partial scholarship programme for international students. The recent additional visa restrictions and the triple-fold increased fees in the United Kingdom have resulted in a major downfall of international students, especially from India.