Foreign Higher Education: How can we make entire process of selection, admission and financing transparent - Hindustan Times
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Foreign Higher Education: How can we make entire process of selection, admission and financing transparent

Jun 19, 2024 06:40 PM IST

If higher education institutions could share their data in a transparent manner it could go a long way in making the entire admission process efficient for all.

The foreign education market is booming. This is fuelled by an increasing demand for quality higher education for the growing middle class of India and the limited number of seats provided by high-quality institutions. Students and families need to make the right choice of college to make the best of their investments and avoid taking unnecessary risks that may jeopardise their family’s financial situation or their own long-term career and financial prospects. Without transparent, well-organised and usable information about colleges and programs, students spend months sifting through websites, blogs, and social media and relying on personal networks and ‘counsellors’ to make this critical decision.

Without transparent, well-organised and usable information about colleges and programs, students spend months sifting through websites, blogs, and social media and relying on personal networks and ‘counsellors’ to make this critical decision.(Unsplash)
Without transparent, well-organised and usable information about colleges and programs, students spend months sifting through websites, blogs, and social media and relying on personal networks and ‘counsellors’ to make this critical decision.(Unsplash)

If higher education institutions could share their data in a manner that is transparent and helps students get a comprehensive and accurate picture, it could go a long way in making the entire process of selection, admission, financing and financial aid efficient for every stakeholder in the sector. In several areas, increased transparency is needed on behalf of foreign institutions to enable students to make informed decisions, banks to lend more efficiently, and improve their admission yield.

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Placements for international students vs domestic students

The average salaries of international student graduates, if mapped to their prior work experience, are far more critical than a blended average that may carry the high salaries of domestic (American) and more experienced graduates. Incoming students should be able to make a realistic assessment of their expected compensation and not be biased by ‘gross’ numbers.

Career outcomes of entire alumni vs notable alumni

A comprehensive record of the career trajectories of every international alumni for a given program will be helpful in visualizing the future that a typical Indian student may be able to anticipate for herself. Information about the renowned people from that university or the college as a whole makes for great impressions but has the potential to provide an unrealistic and exaggerated sense of the future outcomes for a typical student.

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Real salaries vs notional salaries

An Indian student who sees an average salary of $120,000 for the graduating class cannot escape interpreting it as INR 1 crore and immediately mapping it to a wealthy lifestyle that money can afford in India. Colleges and programs or an independent body must provide a realistic picture of what that translates to after adjusting for 40-50% taxation, cost of living that can vary widely in the USA and EMIs for tuition loans. Students should be able to avoid making decisions based on a ‘notional’ view of their salaries and save themselves the disillusionment after graduation by doing objective assessments.

Faculty to show vs faculty to teach

Universities should share the names of faculty mapped to the courses for 1-2 years prior to the current year so that students are assured that the top faculty members mentioned on the website are indeed going to teach them. A lot of times, students get disappointed when they find out the star faculty members are not only not available to teach but are not just there to build the university's research credentials.

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True costs vs base costs

Universities should provide comprehensive and exhaustive details of the total cost of completing the program based on multiple scenarios of tuition costs driven by credits earned, housing based on the choice of locations, insurance, local travel, academic material and licenses and expected incidentals to participate in student activities. This becomes more critical for students from lower-middle income backgrounds for whom even 2-3 lacs of expense can become a challenge.

Real scholarships vs. imaginary scholarships

Fee waivers or cash scholarships create a sense of hope in students and encourage them to apply. However, they are mostly considered black boxes, and it is never clear if an applicant will get one or not. Universities must publish the record of all scholarship recipients so that a prospective student is not planning her finances around a pipe dream.

If the above data can be published transparently, it will accelerate students' decision-making, accelerating the entire financing process. Institutions that prioritise this will not only enhance their reputations but also empower a global community of learners, thereby bolstering their long-term goals and enriching the overall educational ecosystem.

(Author Aman Singh is Co-Founder, GradRight. Views are personal.)

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