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Higher education from abroad

Only a couple of decades ago, education abroad was still the preserve of small elite of potential superstars. Not anymore. The number of students going abroad for higher education has increased many folds. Given chance, students these days are found keen to go for the best.

What is driving this solid growth of students going abroad? Three things: Perception of informed parents and students that the quality of education abroad is a lot better and up-to-date than in Pakistan universities and higher educational institutions. Second, the "foreign-qualified" candidates see better response in not only local but global job market as compared to those with similar qualifications from local universities. And effective marketing of education services with the help of facilitations in immigration rules by their governments.

Two of the children of  Ali Cheema are studying in different universities in United States of America. On the issue of study abroad he says, "My son Naveed Cheema graduated in computer science from reputed university here. He wanted to pursue the subject further but no local university was offering higher degree in the discipline of his interest so he had to go to America. On the other hand, my daughter  Amina  has been offered full scholarship by another American university that was difficult to decline." Ali's  younger daughter Sadia who is doing her "A" level says, "My brother and sister have gone after post graduation whereas I am planning to go abroad after completing my "A" level.

Aiming at long term benefits, western universities are now helping Pakistan to reverse the so called 'brain drain.' "The scholarship offered to Amina has a condition that she will come back after completing her education and stay in Pakistan for at least two years," informed Ali Cheema.

In 1947, there was only one University of the Punjab. Today, we have almost 35 universities in the public sector, more than 100 in the private sector, and this number is growing with newer disciplines being added every year. After the new concept of private education has taken over, many private universities have shown their results whereas some of them have even left their mark on world map. Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore School of Economics, Institute of Business Administration and Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute are playing prominent role in promoting quality education in the country.

There is a marked difference between graduates from privet sector universities and public sector universities. This difference is more visible when it comes to getting a job. There is an even bigger difference when seen between local graduates and those who have graduated from abroad.

The competition between the world's top universities have speeded this growth even further. They are extensively marketing their education services. A growing number of rich countries are redefining both their education and their immigration policies in order to attract more students. "Another factor is the European Union's policy of sponsoring student mobility within the Union so as to create a European identity among the young people. Several countries - most notably Australia and New Zealand - are trying to turn education into an export industry. Foreign students are triply valuable. They pay fees to universities, spend money on things like food and lodging, and may even end up staying on permanently," reads a report.

America is dominating the education market for international students. "Not only are the foreign students contributing some $13 billion a year to America's GDP, they are also supplying brainpower for US research machine and energy for its entrepreneurial economy." The situation changed after September 11. The Institute of International Education reported that the number of foreign students on American campuses is on decline for the first time.

American leadership was alive to the situation and academics acted fast. Now the United States of America has streamlined its visa process for education purpose. Applicants earlier had to wait for 75 days for technical clearance, but the period has now been reduced to 13 days, and students can walk into the embassy without an appointment and apply for an interview at the visa desk. Similarly other western countries and their universities are also making changes to facilitate the students from third world.

It is not enough to have a foreign education from any universities. Given opportunity, students these days opt for the best. As per the findings of 1,300 academics in 88 countries, Oxford, Harvard and Cambridge are among the world's top universities. University of California also scores highly.

In this survey six Australian universities are among the top 50 in the World University Rankings. France, by contrast, manages just two universities in the top 50: École Polytechnique and École Normale Supérieure. Heidelburg University is Germany's single entry.

The only European university outside Britain in the top 20 is the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland . In Asia, Tokyo University is graded at No12 followed by Beijing University at No17.

Coming back, there are not enough openings in local job market. Ask any Seth (CEO) in national or international organizations about their hiring needs, given chance they will prefer graduates from foreign universities as compared to those passed out from local universities. "There is a better match between the modern organizational needs and the foreign education, particularly when the hiring concern has to operate globally," says Professor Dr. Tehseen Sulehrya.

Going gets difficult for brilliant students when it comes to the cost of study abroad. Foreign universities fall under two major categories: public (state supported), and private (independent) institutions. International students' tuition expenses at state schools are based on nonresident costs, which are still usually less expensive than those of private universities.

The tuition fees are different for different universities and vary from as low as 5000 dollars a year for state universities to as much as 30000 dollars per annum for some private universities in America for post graduation. The approximate annual living expenses are about 10,000, dollars which includes accommodation as well as other daily expenses (and this varies from person to person). Some students start working in addition to studying to meet the expanses depending upon the situation.

In UK cost ranges from 1500 to 1200 Pound Sterling. In Australia the range is from 1400 to 1200 dollars whereas medical school fee is around 2200 dollars per year.

Irony is that at government level, there are no proper channels to guide Pakistani students in this regard or institutionalize the process. Private consultants selling 'study abroad' can be found every where though. Stakeholders have been demanding the government to establish such resource centre in collaboration with foreign embassies and streamline the process till the time the needs of the students desirous of higher education can be met at home.

Sadly, that has not started happening yet.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:38 AM,


At 12:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

really very informative its very difficult to get a job for average institution graduate


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