In order to put a foreign education within reach for more of India's students, many universities are promoting âtwinning' courses that allow students to complete the first two years of their education at a local institution, and the rest at a university at institutions in countries like Britain, Australia or the United States.
The savings over a degree earned entirely abroad are substantial. The cost of the first two years would be less than $13,000 per year, which is typically less than half of what it costs to enroll in an American university. For the last two years, the students would need to pay full price – about $40,000 per year.
Although sons and daughters of rich families can still easily afford to go abroad to study, since the collapse of the rupee against the Euro, Pound-Sterling and the American dollar, for middle-class families who might have aspired to do likewise at one point, a foreign education is now an unaffordable dream. As a result, twinning programs have enjoyed an influx of students who might not have considered them as an option before.
With foreign currency getting expensive, universities offering twinning programmes are seeing a surge in student enrolment. In 1994, ICAS was built to accommodate about 200 students; only six students had signed up then. For long, the centre saw a steady rise in students and about 150-odd candidates joined last year. "I feel we will have around 250 students by the end of this year's admission season," says ICAS director GMJ Bhat.
Jalandhar-based Lovely Professional University has had a similar experience. Two years ago, 48 students joined its twinning programmes; this year there are 80 of them.
Other twinning schools report similarly impressive growth. According to Bertrand Guillotin, head of the international program at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, that's not a surprise. Even with the rising costs, a college degree from an American, British, French or Australian university provides an impressive return on investment.
A study conducted by the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) revealed an upswing in the number of foreign education providers in India, from 144 in 2000 to 631 in 2010. Of these, 49 are operating under twinning arrangements, with MBA and hotel management being the most popular courses. But UGC regulations which came in the backdrop of the parliamentary standing committee's report on foreign education providers noted that only 32 out of 49 twinning arrangements had the required approvals.
As Hemali Chhapia of The Times of India explains, that is why students should be extra vigilant when picking twinning courses, especially in making sure that the programs at the two participating schools are well-integrated.