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The changing face of international education

Sunday, 15 December 2013 - 1:59pm IST | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: dna

Studying abroad is a dream for most students. Besides, the attraction of a foreign land, the process of learning, the demography of peers and the freedom while living away from parents are some factors that contribute to this trend.

India, a strong recruitment market for most universities from other countries, attracts representatives of such universities. These visitors share their teaching philosophy, student experiences and the learning outcomes in order to get new students.

Recently, I was in conversation with one such visitor — Dr Stephen J Hodges, president and director, Hult International Business School, who has a strong background in international business. Prior to joining the business school, he worked as the general manager, credit cards for Standard Chartered Bank in Hong Kong. A person from the industry in academia is always a winning combination.

Talking about preference for USA over Europe among Indian students, Stephen cited that the reasons could very well be the difficulty of obtaining a visa and a work permit in Europe after graduate studies. He also observed that prior preparation for studying at US universities may be a lengthy process as solid preparation is needed for PSAT and SAT exams. But the Indian student community seems to have worked out these datelines, leading up to admissions in American universities.

Since students have a variety of universities to choose from, backed by a simplified process of getting student loans, international education is now in easy reach. This shifts the onus on international schools, to have a differentiator, in order to stand out and be seen and heard.

Rankings are thus used for preference. All institutions, therefore, work hard at maintaining their ranks. It is not just the overall ranking of these institutions. Department ranks also matter, as some universities are more known for their business schools or medical schools.  By and large, rankings are a fair indicator, if the survey method is foolproof. They are a way to indicate systems and practices, quality of faculty, results and students placements. Rankings also depend on the voice of their alumni.

But, the interesting element that came up in the discussion was the way internationalism, was now being practically experienced. International business schools, for instance, have campuses around the world. Campuses are strategically built in different environments and countries like San Francisco, London, Shanghai, and Dubai.

The decision to expand across the world reflects the growing interest in degrees with an international focus, given that businesses have an increasing need for global-savvy employees.

Post-graduate students have the opportunity to rotate between five international campuses in London, Boston, San Francisco, Dubai, and Shanghai. Meanwhile, undergraduates can spend four years at the San Francisco campus, four years at the London campus, or any combination of the two, as well as visit campuses in Dubai and Shanghai. Students of MBA schools and master of international business programmes can also attend rotation centres in New York.

With education being less theoretical based and focussing more on critical thinking, and problem solving, a rotational experience which exposes students to new environments and challenges, is possibly a new but a distinct way to offer international studies.

Manjula pooja shroff
The writer is an entrepreneur and educationist.

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