As Academic Competition in India Heats Up, the U.S. Offers an Alternative

by Benjamin Skye | November 8, 2011 | Newsletters 0 Comments

  • University enrollment reaches near-impossible levels.
  • High demand for spots, not enough institutions of higher education in India.
  • Indian students turning to US Universities due to competition, and higher quality education.
  • Unable to make it into the top local universities, more and more of India's best students are choosing to study in the US.

    Unable to make it into the top local universities, more and more of India's best students are choosing to study in the US.

    According to a recent report by The New York Times, students in India are finding it increasingly difficult to enroll in their local universities. With about half of India’s 1.2 billion people under the age of 25, the country’s handful of highly selective universities are increasingly overwhelmed.

    “The problem is clear,” said Kapil Sibal, the government minister overseeing education in India, who studied law at Harvard. “There is a demand and supply issue. You don’t have enough quality institutions, and there are enough quality young people who want to go to only quality institutions.

    This summer, Delhi University, one of the top universities in India, issued cutoff scores at its top colleges that reached a near-impossible 100 percent in some cases. The Indian Institutes of Technology, which are spread across the country, have an acceptance rate of less than 2 percent — and that is only from a pool of roughly 500,000 who qualify to take the entrance exam, a feat that requires two years of specialized coaching after school.

    Indians are now the second-largest foreign student population in America, after the Chinese, with almost 105,000 students in the United States in the 2009-10 academic year. Student visa applications from India increased 20 percent in the past year, according to the American Embassy here. Additionally, although a majority of Indian students in the United States are graduate students; undergraduate enrollment has grown by more than 20 percent in the past few years.

    American universities have now become “safety schools” for increasingly stressed and traumatized Indian students and parents, who complain that one fateful event — the final high school examination — can make or break a teenager’s future career.

    But for some students, it is not merely the competition that drives them to apply to study in the United States. It is also the greater intellectual freedom of an American liberal arts education. India’s educational system is rigid, locking students into one specific area of study and affording them little opportunity to take courses outside their major beyond the 11th grade.

    Only a few courses of study are considered lucrative career paths. Economics, commerce, engineering and medicine have a certain cachet, while English, history and languages are less well regarded. Often students who cannot afford to study abroad end up in less competitive courses, with a narrowing of career possibilities.

    Based on our experience working with international students, particularly those from countries which hold the final high school examination as the sole criteria to enrolling in a local university, we have seen how American universities can provide a great “second chance” for students who struggle with the one final exam. A quality liberal arts education in the U.S. not only prepares a student for a specialized career field, but also emphasizes the need for holistic development and lifelong learning. Students from these programs are better equipped to adapt to the challenges of an ever-changing global community.

    This post is a summary of the article “Squeezed out in India, Students Turn to the U.S.” To read the original article as seen on The New York Times, please click on this link.

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