The Great Foreign University Dream: Not Always Rosy

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bogus universities
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The de-listing of bogus universities has been a continuing and worrying phenomenon in the world of academia. Many privately owned “schools” had their licences revoked, and many students working illegally on student visas were deported as well. These academic institutions accept students who do not plan to study or take classes; they simply want to enter the country and work full-time. This type of university may offer courses with tuition fees that are lower than the national average, attracting a large number of students. Most of the time, these universities do not have enough classrooms or teachers to teach them.

Over 5 lakh students leave India each year to study in countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and other European countries. They are not all admitted to prestigious universities. According to Professor Amarjiva Lochan, an expert at the India Centre for Migration (ICM), nearly 70% of such students either deliberately enrol in substandard universities in order to obtain citizenship through education or are duped by education counsellors in the name of providing good education. These students not only miss out on the opportunity to earn a reputable degree and a job after graduation but also risk deportation and criminal charges. There have been several cases where students from these countries have been deported to India because the colleges they had enrolled in were operating illegally and without authorization. 

So why does this happen and how can we as students become more aware in our pursuit of better education and livelihood opportunities?

  1. Rise of fraudulent education counsellors 

Over the last few years, the number of education counsellors with a focus on foreign education has increased dramatically across the country. Many of them have agreements with subpar institutions in other countries that pay them a hefty commission on each admission. In simple words, they function as freelance agents for these “so-called universities” Students become overly dependent and trusting of these counsellors due to a lack of independent knowledge of their own. 

  1. Low tuition traps

Students and parents are frequently enticed by courses that appear much cheaper at one university than at others. They fail to delve deeper into why this is the case. The most likely reasons are that teachers are insufficiently qualified or that facilities and infrastructure are in poor condition.

  1. Parental and societal pressure

In a world that has become increasingly global, there exists a certain prestige associated with graduating or pursuing masters in a foreign country such as the USA, the UK, Australia Germany etc. It signifies both the availability of monetary resources and the possession of intellect in society- a validation of sorts. Students want to be viewed as NRIs or ‘X country return’. It has apparent benefits in every sphere of life. Parents think of education abroad as reflecting well on their social status or setting up their child for sure shot success.

  1. Aspiring to a better life

Students see an education abroad as a stepping stone to permanent residence in that country. In most first-world countries, obtaining a student visa is considered easier than obtaining a work visa or legal immigration. The aspirations of a better life, higher standard of living and better opportunities can tempt the best of us. 

Here are a few precautions students can take to avoid being duped by unscrupulous intermediaries and universities.

  1. Examine the University’s Accreditation

Most bogus universities falsely claim to have been accredited by an accreditation agency. Check any claims about links with public universities carefully, as bogus universities may claim to have a “special relationship” or “partnership” with a public university, or even “accreditation” from the university, which may be false or exaggerated. To be on the safe side, students can contact the Association of Indian Universities, a Delhi-based organisation that maintains a list of all approved and recognised colleges and universities around the world.

  1. Speak with alumni or current students.

You can connect with current and former college students on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Their reviews and reflections will assist you in developing an unbiased opinion of the educational quality provided there. If the university is a forgery, you will have difficulty finding genuine students who can answer your questions honestly. You can also speak with friends and family members who have studied in the country of your choice; they will have a better understanding of the reputation of specific universities. They may refuse you admission to such a facility.

The best way to avoid such a situation is to be vigilant. Doing your own research while taking the help of others including experts is recommended. After all, you are the captain of your ship and the decider of your journey. 

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