Indian students, irrespective of the income group they belong to, aspire for an international degree. Traditionally, USA, UK, Canada and Australia are the popular hubs for overseas education. However, with the devaluation of the Rupee, these destinations have become prohibitively expensive. So what is the alternative?
Thanks in large measure to globalization however, students today do not have to choose costly destinations for a quality education. They may just hop across to a surrogate campus in the neighbouring Malaysia, Singapore, UAE or even Hong Kong for the much sought after foreign qualification. It is here that top global universities have set up state-of–the–art educational facilities, providing affordable alternatives to their most important stakeholder—the student.
The concept of a surrogate campus is fairly a new one. It is actually an offshore campus of a top university, which provides a student with exactly the same facilities like its home campus. A student may learn the same course, have access to the same faculty and earn the same international qualification at a destination much closer to his home country, and more important at a much lesser cost. In the recent years, Singapore, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Malaysia have turned hosts to such surrogate campuses. These countries have also become hot favourties with Indian students and parents because of two major factors — affordability and proximity.
Take for instance Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS). This not-for-profit professional institute, Singapore's oldest, has put together in same campus programmes rangig from business management to life sciences and engineering to mass communication, tourism and fashion- that are offered in collaboration with the acclaimed universities in Europe, US and Australia. "Getting various universities on board allows us to choose the best programme from each university and in turn give more options to students," says Parthipan Poospernathan, country manager, International Business, MDIS.
At MDIS, a student may enroll for an engineering degree from the University of Bradford; do a fashion-designing course affiliated to Nottingham Trent University, or a healthcare management course from University of Wales all based in UK. One may also study mass communications from Oklahoma City University in the US, or pursue a tourism and hospitality course either from Southern Cross University, Australia or University of Sunderland, UK.
Established in 1956 for local students, MDIS alone houses over 5,000 international students from 75 countries. Poospernathan says, "This is because students can acquire the same international qualification from a reputed university offered in Singapore at half the cost." Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) and even Singapore Institute of Technology also have adopted the "surrogate" concept. By offering degrees from the top UK, US and Australian universities at an affordable cost,
Malaysia is another Southeast Asian country, which houses surrogate campuses. Top institutions of the world in partnership with Malaysia's higher educational institutions, are offering twinning, franchised and external degree programmes, attracting over 87,000 students from Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
The overseas university degree programmes offered by these institutes are "campus-blind". This means that the students receive the same degree as their overseas counterparts do in the home campuses.
"These universities keep a strict check on selection of teachers at their offshore campuses and the students are assessed on the same standards as students at the home campus," says Poospernathan.
Vincent Peh, head, South Asia, International Students Admission, PSB Academy, Singapore adds, "All our degrees are awarded by the foreign universities we have a tie-up with. The syllabus is exactly the same, students are taught and examined in the same way, and our professors are flown-in from the main campuses in UK and Australia."
Pursuing foreign degree in Singapore saves you time, than the main campus itself. "An MBA at University of Newcastle will take 18 months to complete at their home campus in Australia, but at Singapore's PSB Academy, one can finish the course in just a year," says Peh. Similarly, University of Wollongong's Bachelors programmes takes three years to complete in Australia, but the same programme in Singapore campus takes just two years.
Another benefit of pursuing a qualification here is the easy access to further studies at universities in UK and US. "It is easier to secure admission to a Master's degree at an UK or US University if you have obtained your degree from Singapore," says Ranjitha, a student of Biomedical Sciences at MDIS.
The destinations are popular for undergraduate studies as well. Malvika Saran, 15, from Delhi, who is doing one-year fashion designing diploma says, "In India, you can do such a course only after class XII. When I have already decided about my future, then why waste two years. Moreover, an international exposure will help me a lot."
Rising local and global demand for tertiary education it seems, is not the only reason for mushrooming of the surrogate campuses. Eugene Tan Kheng Boon, associate professor, Law at Singapore Management University, says, "Making Singapore a "global schoolhouse" is the part of the larger plan of the government to increase the contribution of education, especially tertiary education, to Singapore's economy."