Bachelor's in India Vs Abroad

Choosing a college path for your child after Class XII is one of the most momentous decisions a parent can take. This decision is normally nerve-wracking for all the participants in the process - the parents for sure, as well as the teenager involved. There are times when even the sibling(s) get involved in the decision-making process!

Immediately afterward, as part of the discussion, arises the question regarding choosing a destination. These days, because the parents are more than willing to consider a foreign university for their children, it has become an added challenge!

Spoilt for choices, confused by the array, the parents, along with their children, tend to gravitate towards the familiar ones! With the abundance of information available today, it is possible that one can make a more informed decision. After all, this will be the most momentous decision you would take in your life for years to come!

Let us consider the pros and cons of both options available to arrive at a fair decision, in the form of a table!

Bachelor’s Degree Locally

Bachelor’s Degree Globally

Familiar environment

Local currency, and value-for-money

Quality of top-tier education institutes

Easy access to home

Campus placements and job assurance

Intellectually stimulating environment

Research-driven education

Encouragement for intellectually brilliant students

Meritocracy, in a largely supportive way

A life-altering experience; and an early start

Intense competition

Poor quality of education beyond Tier-1 institutions

High grades do not guarantee quality programs or quality universities

Very weak research, innovation, and support framework

Lack of support to develop personality & other soft-skills

Higher costs

Foreign currency; and hence, forex vagaries

Visa, regime changes, and xenophobia-related uncertainties

Unfamiliarity with university names and their value or degrees or pedagogy

Self-arranged job fairs, even in Tier-1 universities

Spurious universities exist, to milk the anxious students who want only a foreign degree!

Home sickness, lack of cultural company & familiarity, climatic variations

Home Advantage vs New Environment

The advantage one has in his/her home terrain can never be overstated. It is always to the advantage of the child to study in a familiar environment (or culture). After all, there are friends and family members, who are available to counsel (or support) the child in times of need.

However, immediately after college, many youngsters choose to take up assignments in places where there is little familiarity with their home and upbringing. Therefore, the choice here would depend on the family's readiness to let the child be on his/her own.

Quality of Education

The quality of pedagogy, and the subjects being covered, clearly require a fillip in India vis-a-vis those in the Western universities. Being cutting-edge and up-to-date is a constant effort by the latter, in which regard our Universities have some real catching-up to do.

Certain universities in the US even allow their students to configure their own degree curriculum, starting from the first year itself! In the research & innovation context, the recent initiatives by the Indian central government to support research, publishing, innovation, patenting, entrepreneurship, and start-up ecosystems is a step in the right direction. Many foreign universities, however, are already well ahead on that path.

Competition for Admission

In JEE, an estimated 1.2 million students compete for around 50,000 seats in tier-1 engineering colleges in India. Altogether, ~1.5 million seats are up for grabs, while the enrolment is a shade short of 800,000. Which means, only 50% of seats get filled; and the number of quality seats is just 4% of the total test takers!

Similarly, the number of students competing in around 15,000 seats in quality medical colleges across the country is ~1.3 million. The total number of seats up for grabs is around 60,000; and the number of quality seats is just 1% of the total test-takers.

These admission percentages (1% in Medical & 4% in Engineering) turn out to be stiffer than that in the hallowed Ivy League colleges of the United States.

This level of competition suggests why many Indian students have begun fancying their chances in getting admitted to American universities, or other global destinations.

Cost Advantage vs Value-add in Life

Local education (in India), any day, entails a considerably lower cost in comparison to an education abroad. Add to it the vagaries of forex (a rising dollar or a pound), and the inability to predict the way currencies move, the plot becomes worrisome.

That said, the education you get abroad for the money you pay in many top-notch universities is of immense value. The power of the network you build, the academic & life lessons you learn, and the advanced nature of the subjects you are taught all add up a substantial (yet unquantifiable immediately) value.

There is also the minor issue of getting ahead in familiarity with the terrain, where other classmates eventually land up to pursue their Master's.

Placements & Job Assurances

In India, the top-tier universities have placement cells run by students that are actively involved with corporates. The assurance within India of a good placement depends on, again, the kind of university one gets admitted to. The statistics also reveal a worrying trend: only about 40% of students (admitted to technical education) get placed in India. This suggests the placement opportunities in tier-1 universities is extremely encouraging, but those in smaller, unknown, or tier-2 (or tier-3) universities in India, are on a sticky wicket.

The scenario in the foreign universities is more a case of student-run placement efforts. Once again, since placements are more program driven, there are a lot of hidden-gem programs in the top-100 universities that can be considered.

In conclusion, whichever way one looks at it, the sheer quality of education in good universities abroad weighs in heavily in favor of a foreign education. The economics, however, can be quite intimidating. If the desire for the child is to be fulfilled with an education of higher quality, it may be a prudent idea to take flight now for a Bachelor's program.

In case the student can gain admission into a top university within India for Bachelor's, then the options for post-graduation can be considered. Also, in case finances do not allow (to pay full fees abroad), the student should consider applying for a scholarship. The chances of getting one depends on the quality of the profile of the student.

More on that in another article!