Why opt for a foreign degree?

Why opt for a foreign degree?

Every year, thousands of Indian students decide to study in Universities and colleges abroad. Countries, which are favorites with Indian students include USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Needless to say, all of them have English as their language of instruction. Some other countries which are emerging as destinations for Indian students are Singapore, Dubai and Hong Kong. Countries such as Germany, France, China, Italy etc. will continue to draw some interest from Indian students but will never be mainline destinations primarily because of language barriers.

Whereas, historically the decision to opt for a foreign degree was driven more from the lure of a “ dollar salary” upon completion of the foreign degree, the trend has changed dramatically in the last decade. There is an increasing trend of students coming back to India after studying abroad. The Indian economy has been growing between 7-9% in the last decade, thus throwing open many new opportunities for students. However, the lure of a foreign degree still remains. So let us look at some of the reasons why one should opt for a foreign degree.

Capacity and Quality

I recently met a student who had just completed her class 12 from CBSE and from one of the premier schools in the capital. She had scored 94% marks in her 12th Boards and wanted to study economics and commerce in college. She did not make the cut in St. Stephen’s, Sri Ram College of Commerce or even Hindu College. She made it to Ramjas College. Fortunately she had also applied abroad. She was admitted both to Brown University and Columbia University. Both are amongst the top ten Universities in the world. Wow! If her parents can afford a foreign degree then the choice here is not even worth debating. Obviously, she is headed to Columbia.

Our country just does not have enough quality institutes at the undergraduate or graduate level that can take care of our talented student body. Whereas, we as a country have still done a better job of education our kids at the school level, the same is not true at the college level. This is especially true in the liberal arts domain. Delhi University is perhaps one of the best Universities in India. However, a cursory chat with any DU student will reveal that often classes do not happen and a lot of the student’s time is spent hanging around the campus or around the canteen. Serious study happens only before the annual exams.

With severely limited capacity that India has of good quality colleges, our students have little choice but to opt for a foreign degree. Not to forget that Universities, especially in the US, are some of the best in the world. Institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, Princeton, Columbia, Yale, Brown, MIT (and the list goes on) are at the top in terms of quality of education and research facilities.

International recognition

A foreign degree especially from a renowned University gives you a seal of approval that is valid and recognized all over the world. Your credentials in the employment world are stamped for a lifetime and it gives you the flexibility to move across companies and countries without having to worry about your credentials.

Cutting edge curriculum and research

Most foreign Universities are far ahead than their Indian counterparts in curriculum design. The US and UK Universities are leaders in innovation and research. This is not only reflected in the number of Nobel laureates that come of these Universities but also in the number of patents filed. The curriculum is not only contemporary but also changes to adapt itself to a world in which technology is evolving faster than we can think. It is now wonder then that most of the innovation today is taking place in Universities and institutes in the West. This innovation is being driven by a diverse and international student body.

Flexibility to make a “tailor made degree”

Do you want to be an engineer who has interest in political science and would like to learn Chinese as well? Yes, that is perfectly possible if you have decided to study abroad. The greatest value that a foreign degree brings is the ability to cater to students’ interests in totality. Degrees are not straight jacketed into engineering or commerce or medicine. An engineer can also study economics in great depth and learn music alongside.

Unfortunately, in India we impose a curriculum on a student in class 11 itself when a student decides to take up commerce, non-medical, medical or arts. I meet so many students who often have interests in varied subjects but our education system does not allow them to pursue that. In an information world where decision making is becoming more complex, knowledge cannot be put is silos. A student needs the freedom to explore and choose and this choice has to go on till post-graduate levels.

Learning from an International student body

Most campuses in the west will have students from across the world, often from more than 40 countries. Imagine the learning in such an environment. Learning about China from a Chinese student or about Africa from a Nigerian is very different from text book learning. Often, in this age we talk about a “globalized citizen”. An education abroad puts you on the path to becoming such a citizen.


It is often said that a subject is as interesting as the teacher who is teaching it. A mundane subject can be made interesting by a great teacher. Ask any student who has studied abroad and especially somebody who did his or her undergraduate degree in India and post graduate in the West. The comparison is often quite stark. Most foreign Universities stand out in the quality of their faculty.

Research and teaching opportunities

A critical component of a foreign degree is the opportunity to work as a research or teaching assistant. A student is assigned as an intern to a professor and undertakes research or teaching work on the professor’s instruction. This not only allows a student to make money while studying but also inculcates discipline and trains a student to undertake research and think independently. Often supervised by senior faculty, these positions often turn out be the most defining experiences of students while on a foreign campus.

Access to global placements

Lastly, a degree from abroad allows you to have employment access to the best companies around the world. Examples of some success stories are clearly visible. An Indra Nooyi heading Pepsi or a Vikram Pandit heading Citbank is only possible because these people dared to opt for a foreign degree. Who knows …you could be next if you dare to dream.

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