Education

Overseas options

The NEP will make foreign education more accessible to a lot of students.   | Photo Credit: Freepik

Much like other industries, the education sector was thrown off course, due to the COVID-19 lockdowns, and lakhs of students who aspired to go abroad for their higher education witnessed their plans come to a screeching halt. ‘What next? Which courses do we opt for? Which countries are safe?’ were some inevitable questions that cropped up. To allay their doubts, online platform Yocket recently conducted a survey with a sample size of 123,309 students, regarding studying abroad. Sumeet Jain, the founder of Yocket, spoke to Education Plus about the findings and prospects of foreign studies.

Trends over time

Yocket’s main aim, he says, is to foster aspirations to study abroad, so, “it is crucial for us to observe changing trends. We also wanted to examine the impact of COVID-19 on this sector. Therefore, data of four years was considered.” The survey looked at pre-COVID (2018-19), COVID (2019-20) and post-COVID (2020-21).

Sumeet believes that students should opt for higher education now. “This is the best time to develop skill-based individuals who can encourage business. Recessions are known to be the best time for people to upskill themselves, as the opportunity cost is low, and people will be well-equipped for when the economy bounces back.”

Top countries

United States: According to the survey, more than 81% of the students aspired to study in the U.S, which until recently had the highest number of COVID-19 cases. “Not every region in the U.S., is as badly affected,” clarifies Sumeet. “Most universities are away from the main cities; most are college towns themselves. Universities are opening up campuses when they are sure of providing a safe environment. Apart from physical distancing measures and regularly sanitising campuses, universities can have a mix of online and on-campus classes.”

Asked about the recent changes to visa criteria, Sumeet points out that, overall, there wasn’t much in the last four years. “The U.S. understands the importance of international students, not just in terms of revenue but also the diversity and the quality they bring to the campuses. Especially after the pandemic, the education sector will get a boost. So, students can definitely expect some positive news post the elections, irrespective of whoever wins.”

Australia: The least number of students (below 2%) wanted to study here. However, there are many reputed colleges and universities with supportive International Student Schemes. “Most of our respondents were people from STEM courses and they prefer the U.S. Also, Australia has a limited number of universities in comparison to the U.S., but is doing well in Accounting and Management-related subjects. Employment opportunities and pay scales are quite high in the U.S, which makes it a more viable option. Many students have also started to consider Canadian and European schools, which explains low numbers for Australia.” Sumeet also feels a post-study work visa will help attract students and hopes that the government will be “student-friendly”, pointing to the constant change in the skilled labour list and the need for employment opportunities for students without Permanent Residence (PR).

Germany: While some universities offer free tuition, most are highly competitive and focus on academic performance. While knowing German is not mandatory, it will definitely make life easier.

United Kingdom: When the post-study visa option was cancelled, numbers dipped. But now that it has been revived, things could improve. But post-Brexit, job opportunities for international students will have to be seen, he says.

STEM vs Humanities: According to the survey, only students with a commerce or science background preferred to study abroad. “Studying abroad is expensive and, often, students have to avail loans. They have to check post-study options to be able to repay it. In the U.S., for instance, the STEM courses have a post-study work visa option of two years; whereas, for the Humanities or Arts, the option is just one year. Getting a job in these sectors can be challenging. So, there is a need for government-sponsored scholarships for these courses. In a post-COVID environment, there will be a number of courses and careers that will be a hybrid of tech and the Humanities. Naturally, tech companies too will start hiring Humanities graduates, which will provide an impetus to pursue it.”

He also says that the four-year graduation mandated by the National Education Policy 2020 will make foreign education more accessible to Indian students. “Many U.S. universities do not accept three-year degrees. Thus, this move will give Indian students more options for post-graduation and higher studies.”

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Printable version | Nov 25, 2020 6:19:45 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/overseas-options/article32880578.ece

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