Issue :   
December 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         December 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:Dec' 2017


Indian students in U.S. winning laurels

M. R. Dua

MERRITORIOUS, a m b i t i o u s , f i n a n c i a l l y c omf o r t a b l y placed, Indian students have invariably cherished to go overseas, preferably the US, for higher studies in science, technology and engineering, mathematics— otherwise known by the popular acronym, STEM. Besides these subjects, many bright learners have been attracted by innovative programmes piloted by distinguished universities like Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, Yale, etc. Among other most sought after professional areas, such as medical science and technology, bio-technology and pharmaceutical sciences, robotics, advanced computer sciences, space science, and business management/ administration, have equally lured many Indian students.

Indian student in the US Opening up of high-profile employment opportunities in academics and research has prompted innumerable bright young boys and girls to opt for advanced studies in many prestigious universities paying exorbitant annual fees—anything between $40,000 and $80,000. Though the prohibitive rupee-dollar value equation keeps mounting by the day, students' rush has remained undeterred.
For example, during the academic year 2015-16 alone, according to the Open-Door survey of the Washington-based International Institute of Education, (IIE) Indian students studying in the US numbered more than 186,000, contributing nearly $6.54 billion to the American economy. China's 3.5 million students' fees enriched the US coffers by nearly $39 billion in 2015- 16.
Similarly, in the year 2016-17, for fourth year running, the number of Indian students heading to the US was up by about 12.3% to134,292. This was less than that in the year 2015-16, which was nearly 25% of the overall foreign students' population in the US. It's noteworthy that the majority of them, nearly 65%, were pursuing engineering, computer sciences and information technology courses.
Currently, higher number of Indian students are studying for undergraduate degrees. Yet another new trend worth that wealthy Indian parents prefer their wards start earlier in the US, raising their chances for easy entry into the ivy league universities' sterling areas. Such schools include Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, etc., at master and doctoral levels.
Higher degrees from these universities make them eligible for selection into academic and research positions in America. Besides, admission and liberal financial aid are readily available for sterling programmes where entry is tough and competition cut-throat, for those who studied in the US for their undergraduate programmes.
Though there are more than 800 universities, institutes and schools of higher education and research, such as the IITs, IIMs, IIITs, NITs, and advanced scientific and social sciences research institutions in India, that draw hundreds of thousands of students from Africa, West Asia, as also some South Asian countries, Indian students continue to make bee-line to the United States year after year.
Digging deep into these odditiies, it's not difficult to search for reasons for the pitiable state of India's labyrinthine educational system today.The quality of our education is way below as compared with the academic standards of even a tiny nation like Singapore.
It's shocking to know that not one among the 800 Indian universities finds a place in the first 200 Best universities in the world. Besides, not even the highly touted of the IITs or IIMs stand in comparison to the seats of higher learning in any of the Western country.
Here it'll be pertinent to ask: why do increasing numbers of Indian students opt for US universities?The recent IIE's Open-Door survey reveals that from among Indians, the largest number comes from the state of Andhra Pradesh, closely followed by Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Delhi. West Bengal and Punjab are far behind.
In fact, the main cause why our students rush to American universities are not far to seek. During my recent visit, I discovered that the Bloomington-based (in the state of Illinois), the 160-year-old Illinois State University, though not known to be really a top notch seat of learning in the United States, it's deemed to be the most cherished destination for Andhra's innumerable applicants who're looking for less expensive school for higher studies in computer sciences, biology and business management. I saw a number of Telugu-speaking boys and girls surrounding a professor delivering a lecture. Only one among them was from Indore, and another from Bhopal, M.P.
The same was true when I visited the Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and also in California State University near Los Angeles, three years ago where I found a couple of Indian girls were pursuing masters in journalism and public relations. CNN's star broadcaster, and The Washington Post's columnist, Freed Zakaria, studied international relations first at California and later at Columbia.
When asked, Indian students talked highly of innovative course content, and modern equipment being yoked for imparting class-room instructions and practicals.
A chemistry student Rajesh Kumar at the Michigan State University in Ann Arbor told me: "See, I've a $2- million lab at my disposal 24x7x365; I keep the key to the most expensive equipment, chemicals and instruments for pursuing my research. I come any time I like; no one checks me; I keep working in the lab until late hours in the evening. I could never ever even dream of such kind of facilities in the Delhi University," he regretted. And he's only a second-class masters in chemistry. Now armed with a Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry from one of the famous schools in Georgia State, he owns and runs a prospering consultancy medicochemical services company in the Washington area.
Such unhindered support and facilities have prompted technology innovators Indians, such as, Satya Nadella, the CEO of technology giant, Software, Sunder Pichai, the CEO of Google, and many like them to stay back in the US.
And they have made California's Silicon Valley as the world's most envied and prestigious technology hub. Thus, there are umpteen reasons why Indian students rush to American Universities. Like Nadella, Pichai, Rajesh Kumar, and many highly skilled and educated Indians are now settled in the US, and doing good work.
However, since early 2017, with the Donald Trump administration in the White House, studying in the US is becoming out of bounds for students from many countries, belonging to numerous ethnic and religious groups. Though Indian students generally don't experience any such hurdles, constant hefty raises in fees and other charges, including skyrocketing living expenses, are discouraging several students' plan to study in the US.
It's a fact that in some special cases when brilliant students do selffinance their studies, liberal financial assistance is offered by some universities. One such case that this writer is familiar with is that of Gaurav from Haryana's Panipat. With a high first-class MBA from Kurukshetra University, he somehow made it to the Mississippi University for his doctorate in financial accounting.
After meeting the university department's dean there, he was immediately granted a fee-waiver of over $30,000, and awarded a teaching assistanceship to meet his living expenses. After obtaining his Ph.D., he is now an assistant professor in a university in the neighbouring state of Arkansas. Though craving for an American degree continues unabated, the universities and institutes in India too are striving to modernize and upgrade their academic and research methodologies to the international standards. But it'll take a long time to pitch to those peaks.
Meanwhile, the University Grants Commission has also been monitoring teaching and student evaluation techniques and are endeavouring to meet global measures. The products of the 23 Indian Institutes of Technology, 47 central universities and 23 National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and 23 Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) are being generally treated on par with the foreign degree holders in many areas. Many foreign universities, like Harvard, North-Western (in Chicago) are also said to be planning to set up study centers in India -- on the lines of those in Kuwait, Dubai and Saudi Arabia.
However, come what may, the innate desire to study abroad among students and academics is bound to continue. Having been educated in foreign lands is undoubtedly a unique experience in its own way. Personally speaking, additional qualifications from a different university definitely has its own advantage in making academics enjoyable.