A research-driven curriculum, international exposure and a multi-disciplinary approach seem to attract aspiring Indian engineers to institutes abroad.
While India boasts of the best engineering colleges, a large number of aspiring engineers are eager to pursue their higher education abroad. While some attribute it to global exposure, others consider it necessary to gain an edge in the job market. Classroom diversity, placement prospects and research opportunities are equally important for students who are looking at 21st century learning as more than a classroom experience.
In fact, Nihal Shah, who is pursuing BS in computer science at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, points out that unlike in India, where entrance exams determine the course that one would pursue, in the US one’s interest is the primary determinant. Additionally, he says, the liberal nature of the education system ensures that apart from gaining a thorough knowledge of his/her subject, students also get an opportunity to explore other avenues. Also, Nihal adds that the facilities in terms of equipment, methods of learning, exposure and opportunities are significantly better and varied when compared to India.
Popular fields such as IT and computer engineering, electronic, electrical, mechanical and telecommunications continue to attract Indian students. However, with the infrastructural boom in urban and rural areas of India, civil engineering is gaining prominence. Says Hannah Dickinson, international officer, South Asia, University of Nottingham, UK, “While mechanical engineering is the most popular degree among Indian students at our university at the undergraduate level, at the postgraduate level, students tend to opt for MArch programmes, particularly MArch urban design and MArch sustainable tall buildings.” Other lesser known yet promising fields that students consider include petroleum, environment, geology, operations research, financial, nano-science and engineering and mechatronics engineering.
Says Viral Doshi, career counsellor, “For undergraduate applications, a strong academic record from classes IX to XII and good SAT1 and SAT2 scores are crucial. These are the prime drivers for admission and once bolstered by extracurricular activities (ranging from competitions, internships, research and community service), students can get entry in good universities.” Apart from IELTS/TOEFL scores, graduate schools in the US require GRE scores.
Advises Yash Mishra, an MEng biochemical engineering student at University College London, “UK universities use a common universities and colleges admissions service (UCAS) for admission at the undergraduate level. Each applicant can apply to a maximum of five universities through UCAS. Therefore, it is important to wisely choose your options. The best way to do this is by selecting both — your dream colleges that have high requirements as well as those institutes that you are confident of the entry requirements.” Adds Nihal, “Depending on finances, strike off institutes that are expensive right at the beginning. Also, be honest and present your true self in the essay. If any university has an early application deadline, apply before time as it can be beneficial.”
The most important thing to do while applying to institutes abroad is to budget and plan the finances for the total cost of education, including tuition and living expenses for the entire duration of the programme. Says Pratibha Jain, overseas counsellor, “Though scholarships are available, do not assume that you will get the funding even if you are a bright student. While most countries allow only 20 hours per week while on a student visa, the money earned is too little to cover any major expense.”
While students look at the return on investment prospect amidst a difficult financial situation, experts insist that good engineers will be in demand. Says Shekhar Sanyal, country head and director, Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), “Engineering is a relevant field in the 21st century and that there are no jobs for engineers is a myth. There is, in reality, a dearth of good engineers. Unfortunately, most engineers who graduate from institutes in India have only bookish knowledge. However, the education system abroad focuses on applications. The ‘applications’ knowledge of these students is inherently higher and so is their potential of coming back to India and getting better jobs.”
Notwithstanding the fall of the rupee, the US continues to be a favourite choice among students at both the UG and PG level. The country’s popularity can be attributed to the diversity of its academic institutions, strong modules, research scopes and placements.
Elaborates Pratibha Jain, overseas counsellor, “With the latest post-study work visa rules, a lesser number of students are applying to the UK. Most European countries like Ireland, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and France are offering attractive scholarships and low tuition fees. Canada is offering a three-year work visa post the (UG or PG) education, together with options to apply for residency in Canada within a year of full-time work. Australia is taking remedial steps to present itself as a safe zone for students with less stringent visa norms and more work visas after completing a minimum of two years’ study in the country.”
Engineering is among the top ranked professional degrees globally, which can lead to excellent career options for graduates. India has some of the world’s best engineering colleges. Therefore, pursuing an undergraduate engineering degree in India in one of the colleges is very advantageous. After an undergraduate engineering degree, it is advisable that students target high-reputation international engineering colleges to pursue their Masters or PhD because these will equip students with state-of-the art research training and will enable them to get quality jobs internationally. With the advent of information technology, nano-engineering and biomedical engineering, these three branches and other so called transitional branches such as computer, electronics, civil, mechanical and material and chemical engineering are all in high demand at the moment. Students should always look for areas that are just emerging and will be mainstream in the next five to 10 years. This will allow students to be in an advantageous position once they graduate from college, equipped with the most advanced knowledge in a given field.