Post Graduation from India?
In this post, I will focus on the well documented phenomenon of most Indian students choosing to pursue their post graduate degrees from foreign destinations, rather than top Indian schools.
Over the past 50 years, Indian institutes like the IITs and IIScs have been able to establish undergraduate programs of considerable repute and the programs have won worldwide acclaim for churning out the best students with excellent skills and top ability. However, when it comes to the quality of post graduate education, the fact remains that most Indian Institutions are not at par with their western counterparts. Why is this the case? What steps can be taken to rectify it and how can we encourage more Indian students to pursue their studies from India?
Needless to say, such a trend is detrimental to the prospects of Indian science as a whole. If the brightest students continue to leave Indian shores, and pursue their research and higher studies abroad, it creates an acute shortage of talented graduate students in India, resulting in second rate post graduate programs. Also, many Indian students who pursue their studies abroad continue their academic careers in foreign universities, where they settle down. Thus, India loses out on precious talent and is unable to retain the best and the brightest to carry out their work in India.
The caliber of a university is largely judged by the quality of research work that is carried out there, and since most Indian universities do not attract the highest caliber students in their post graduate programs, the research output is also not at par, when compared with the best Universities of the world. Hence it is essential to identify the key problems that ail the post graduate programs in India, and make efforts to create incentives for students to carry out their higher studies from the top Indian Universities.
Creating better programs for higher education is, however not an easy job, because there are large number of factors that go in creating top rate programs and retaining best talent, and it takes considerable time and effort to incrementally improve the quality of a program. So, any policy change towards this end has to be gradual and incremental.
First and foremost, the programs need to be made attractive in terms of funding and financial support. Although the financial support for Phd students has been considerably improved recently, it is still insufficient and the students find it more attractive to go to foreign Universities where they get much better financial support. Funding opportunities can be improved by attracting industry sponsors to partially support top students. Internships in top research labs can also help improve the funding scenario. Along with improved funding, another way of retaining good talent is to create and maintain state of the art infrastructure and provide excellent resources to students. This includes better computing facilities, libraries and high quality equipment to carry out experimental work. Creating such an environment can encourage more students to stay back and carry out their work in India.
The strength of the programs also needs to be improved in terms of size, diversity and fields of study. Once their is a critical mass of students working in different fields, it creates increased incentives, whereby students can engage in better inter disciplinary work, easily work across diverse fields and bring forth greater flexibility to their studies.
Fortunately, many Indian Institutions have already started the process of modernization and are putting in greater emphasis on higher education. The Indian Institutions already have some of the best undergraduate programs in the world. There is no reason, why by making appropriate changes at the policy level, we cannot create the best higher education institutions in India over the next 20 years.