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Posted on September 15 2014

Why Indians are increasingly looking to study in US, UK at undergraduate level

By  Editor
Updated April 03 2023

A few months ago, Rimi Khanna (name changed), studying Maths honors at Sri Venkateswara College, Delhi, approached CollegeCore Education for guidance for transfer to a US college.

"She did not find her course engaging enough. Nor did she like the crowd," says Urvashi Malik, founder and managing director at education services firm CollegeCore Education. Rajat Agarwal from Calcutta wanted admission into St Xavier's College.

However, the high cutoff could only fetch him a berth in B-grade colleges, which he was not willing to enter. Finally, Agarwal got admission into the University of Warwick in the UK, which was willing to provide him a berth with their cut-off of around 85%-86%, lower than the 92%-93% or even 100% required to get into the top league Indian colleges, says Rohan Ganeriwala, co-founder at Collegify, an admission consultant.

Like Khanna and Agarwal, an increasing number of students from India are looking at options to study abroad at the undergraduate level, pushed by the difficulty of getting admission into a good college due to high cut off marks, limited number of seats in the general category, lack of flexibility in the courses offered and quality concerns.
"More and more Indian students are finding value in a global degree. Earlier what was mostly seen at the postgraduate level is now shifting to the undergraduate level," says Malik. This year, she says, she has to close registrations in a few days' time, whereas in other years it would continue through October. SAT, the standardized test widely used for college admissions in the US, witnessed the highest growth in volumes from India in the last administration cycle (October-December 2013 and January, May and June 2014). "With over 24,000 tests being taken (including SAT and subject tests), this translates into roughly 26% growth from the previous administration cycle," says Lisa Jain, country representative — India, The College Board. Adding to this is the confusion over the four-year undergraduate programme in colleges under Delhi University, which was introduced last year and scrapped this year after a diktat from the UGC. The tussle between the UGC and DU also led to admissions being put on hold. "Nearly two-thirds of every class from good schools in Delhi are going in for overseas admissions. This wasn't the case in the past," says Malik. She says people from Delhi schools, who cannot get admission due to the high cut-offs, would now rather go abroad than to cities like Pune, Bangalore, and Mumbai. An increase in the cost of education abroad -- with dollar prices and fees going up - has not really affected the number of students going to study abroad. Some of the popular destinations include the US, UK, Singapore, Canada and Australia. The estimated cost of studying at a private university in the US at the undergraduate level will be around Rs 35-40 lakh per year, which amounts to about Rs 80 lakh to Rs 1.5 crore for a four- year undergraduate course. "There is a very unusual hike this year compared with the previous years... We can easily put this estimate to around 25% year-on-year increments," says Jatin Bhandari, CEO and co-founder PythaGurus, an admission consultant. He says the number of applications to the US has gone up at the cost of UK and Australia applications, due to the relatively friendly immigration system in the US. Aradhana Khaitan Mahna, co-founder and managing director of Manya Education, the master franchise for Princeton Review in India says the recent years have also seen an increase in the number of students applying to countries like Singapore and New Zealand.Rising middle-class income levels, greater risk-taking ability, easing of the job markets outside, and overseas education being viewed as a status symbol are the other reasons.
Some of the popular universities that Indian students are targeting at the undergraduate level include Princeton University, Yale University, University of Virginia, University of Pennsylvania, London School of Economics, Harvard University, Brown University, Warwick, New York University, MIT, and Berkeley. Students who are not satisfied with the quality of education in India are even willing to take a one-year gap before they get into a college abroad.

Salil Singh, secured admission into Hindu College as well as Cornell University last year, although he did not manage to get a full scholarship. So he studied in India for a year, applied again this year and got into Brown University with a full scholarship. "He thought he deserved better," says Ganeriwala of Collegify, where Sahil had gone for guidance for overseas admission.

Also, universities abroad give more flexibility in combining subjects. For instance, a person studying physics can combine it with music. "The subject choices abroad are meant to grow your worldview," says Ganeriwala.

Rica Bhattacharyya & Anumeha Chaturvedi

Sep 9, 2014,


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