From colonial times to the here and now, going abroad to study has been a dream nurtured by thousands of Indian students. Yet, in the 21st century, that stuff of dreams is increasingly becoming a reality as universities around the world pull out all the stops to attract students from these shores. Not only are they meritorious but also display a sense of diligence towards academics — a fact that has impressed educators far and wide. India has been the leader when it comes to sending students abroad with upwards of 200,000 people enrolled for higher education in countries like the USA, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, Russia and Singapore. Of these, it is the USA that takes the cake as it has been the preferred destination for the majority, with as many as 102,673 Indian students (as of November 2014).

However, as is often the case, gathering all the necessary information becomes an uphill task for prospective students even with the presence of the Internet. With a view to helping those interested, The United States-India Educational Foundation in partnership with KIC UnivAssist hosted a US University Fair in the Lincoln Room of the American Center recently, specifically aimed at undergraduate students.

Representatives from 15 accredited US universities like Michigan State University, Purdue University, University of Oklahoma, University at Buffalo (The State University of New York), University of Washington (Seattle) and University of Arizona among others, participated to disseminate information about their respective institutions, albeit, focused on those passing out of school or on the verge of doing so. More than 200 students from various schools in the city like St Xavier&’s, Calcutta Boys, Shri Shikshayatan, et al, attended the event. The room was teeming with curious minds, some of whom were accompanied by their parents, and representatives from the universities were more than happy to answer queries.

Swaraj Nandan, director, KIC University assistant, said, “The USA continues to dominate the higher education landscape given its large number of high quality institutions. A strong research focus, academic flexibility to choose programmes and top-class career preparation support are some of the key reasons Indian students flock to the USA.”

Talking to students at the event, it became apparent that the flexibility offered by universities there is what prompts them to choose US institutions over those that are closer home. Rajarshee Chatterjee, studying in Class XII from Burdwan High School, said, “I want to study mathematics but am also interested in music. Universities there are offering me both, something which is unheard off in our education system.”

His view was echoed by Sayantica Chakraborty, Shinjini Banerjee and Debasmita Das — all students of Shri Shikshayatan and interested in studying medical sciences or its allied subjects. But they also pointed out a few things that the authorities concerned can do well to take note of. “It&’s difficult to get places in the medical colleges here owing to the paucity of seats. I prefer the USA also because, unlike here, there is no politics in educational institutions,” said Chakraborty.

The scholarships offered by the participating universities were a cause of much endearment to students as the fees are quite stiff and often, outside the reach of most. 

On the other hand, university representatives have been much enthused by the response from the city and that has made them come back for the second year running. Raymond Lew, associate director of international enrollment management, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, said, “Our situation when it comes to Indian students is a little lop-sided as most opt for graduate studies. We are looking to address it as we feel even undergraduates should get a chance to mingle with students from India.”

But, how do they plan to bring the marks from disparate state and national boards on an even keel? “We feel that the Indian education system looks for ways to reject people whereas in the USA, we always look for avenues to accept students. We are aware of the grading system of each board and will judge students accordingly.”

As the assembled crowd left for the day, one couldn’t help but feel that such endeavours from Indian universities would have benefited students immensely. If only the powers that be listen.