Trends in overseas education

For over 25 years, he has listened to the plans outlined by students who wanted to go abroad, and has given them reliable advice on the courses they could take up at foreign universities.

Over the years, he has visited universities in the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and much of Europe, and his organisation has links with over 100 universities around the world.

On a visit to Coimbatore, the Group Chairman, Campus Abroad, C. B. Paul Chellakumar, speaks to A. A. Michael Raj on the trends in overseas education.

WHEN HE started out as an educational consultant, back in 1978, there were only a handful of students who yearned for a foreign degree.

However, during the past decade, the tempo has picked up and the number of Indian youngsters on foreign campuses is steadily increasing.

"At one time, the United States used to be the only one that attracted students. However, when the visa refusals went up in 1990, Australia welcomed students from Indonesia, Malaysia and India."

After doing market research, the United Kingdom came into the open market for education in 1996 and began admitting students. New Zealand, Ireland and Singapore also entered the foreign education scene.

After "September 11" and the concern over security in the U.S., it was the U.K. that became the favoured destination.

In due course, the over 4,000 universities in the U.S. began "feeling the pinch" owing to the decrease in the number of international students. Institutional pressure led to a drop in the visa refusal rate.

A survey sometime ago in the U.K. predicted that in 2010 the number of foreign students would go up ten fold.

"In India, going abroad became easier owing to Government policies, foreign exchange relaxation, the presence of multinationals in the country, and the availability of bank loans. Going abroad used to be a dream for the middle class, but they found that it was possible if they went for a long-term loan," he said.

Before opting for a particular university, students ought to "do their homework" and find out as much as they could about the institution they wanted to join.

They should keep in mind that it was not the degree that counted, but the institution from which they had obtained it.

"About 50,000 MBAs come out every year in the U.S. How many of them will be successful? Hardly five percent," he said, and reiterated the need for Indian students to go to the best institutions.

Instead of spending up to Rs. 10 lakhs on a course in an institution that was not up to the mark, they could start a business of their own in India.

It was unwise to depend only on the information contained on websites, because most institutions tended to highlight their strengths rather than their weaknesses.

Governmental agencies could provide reliable information.

Guidance from reputed educational counsellors could prevent youngsters and their parents from getting confused.

Chellakumar, who is the president of the Association of Accredited Advisors on Overseas Education, said that at one time, educational consultants used to charge students for their services, but reputed agents nowadays offered free counselling because they were paid well by the universities themselves.

Among the advantages of studying abroad were the opportunities for global placement, besides exposure to the `case study' method that made learners apply theoretical knowledge to practical problems.

Exposure to international culture during their campus years, and the contacts they made with others, would stand youngsters in good stead when they took up professional careers.