‘Exposure to the European life provides a decisive advantage to students’
Nearly 75 recognized universities from the European Union participaed in the European Higher Education Fair India 2014. The fair, which saw participation of 23 countries from the EU, was aimed at highlight what Europe had to offer in terms of post-graduate level education to Indian students.
According to H.E. Dr Joao Cravinho, Ambassador of the European Union, the idea behind the EHEF 2014 was to bring into focus factors like high-quality education, value for money and rich cultural experience in the forefront for Indian students to explore the educational possibilities in Europe.
In this interview with Careers360, the Dr Joao Cravinho speaks about the opportunities one can unlock through EHEF 2014 and how the fair presents a platform to foster institutional contacts between European and Indian universities.
Below are edited excerpts from the interview:
Q: It is for the first time that such a huge number of universities from the European Union are coming down to connect with Indian students. What kind of impact are you aiming for through EHEF 2014?
A: India has the second highest number of internationally mobile students, after China, travelling abroad for tertiary level education. On the other hand, Europe is recognized as the leading higher educational destination for international students, offering both cutting-edge education, value for money and rich cultural experience. Through this fair, we hope to bring these two components together and allow the Indian students to explore the educational, scholarship and career opportunities available in Europe. We believe that this can be an important part of India’s growth story. EHEF will also act as a platform to foster institutional contacts between European and Indian universities.
Q: EHEF 2014 is being held in three cities across the country. Do you think this will create an issue of accessibility for students from other smaller cities?
A: EHEF is being organized in New Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata, and we hope to reach out to as many students as possible from north, south and east India through this. While we would have liked to cover the smaller cities as well, however, we had to balance these considerations with logistical challenges and the practical aspects of bringing so many European institutions together to visit India simultaneously. That said, we have tried to mitigate the disadvantage of physical distances through our online presence and Indian students will be able to contact the participating universities through our online channels (website, Facebook etc) if they wish to do so.
Q: Are you planning to make EHEF an annual event? Will you explore smaller cities through future fairs?
A: We are currently focused on organizing the 2014 Fair, which we hope will help to bridge the huge unmet demand for access to information. While we will analyze our next course of action and decide on the appropriate tools and channels, which can further help to disseminate information to the students, we are happy to inform that the next EHEF is planned for 2016.
Q: You talked about higher education being fully or massively subsidized in many European countries. Upto what extent do you think Indian students can benefit from such subsidies as there are always other factors involved in studying abroad like living and travelling expenses?
A: The subsidies which keep the cost low are a direct benefit to Indian students. In addition, there are also a large number of scholarship opportunities available to the students that they can apply for. Some of those scholarships, such as the Erasmus+ scholarships, cover cost of studies, including travel, living cost, insurance, cost of installation and visa.
There are also bank loans available from many leading public and private sector banks in India which the students can avail of.
Q: One of the major reasons why Indian students study abroad is to get an edge in the job market-not just in India but also in the global job market. How does a degree from an European university help in this regard?
A: Europe is India’s biggest trading partner, and there is a steady growth of volume of trade. Already, European companies are estimated to provide direct employment to 1.5 million and indirect employment to 6.3 million people in India. These numbers are set to grow with the rising volume of Europe-India trade. Thus, exposure to the European way of life, knowledge of a specific European country or language, cultural competence can certainly provide a decisive advantage to the students.
In addition, besides academic qualifications, an international degree enriches the student with practical insights, cultural sensitivity to work in a multi-cultural environment and wider perspective, which certainly provide an edge and are increasingly being valued by employers these days.
Q: According to a report by Assocham, European countries like Germany, Norway, France and Sweden are the new ‘red hot destinations’ for Indian students. Can you highlight the factors behind their increasing popularity?
A: Not only these but all countries across Europe have their unique advantages from different perspectives for different streams of education. In some countries tuition fees are totally waived off such as Germany, Finland and Norway (which is not a member of the European Union but participates in the European Higher Education Area), or highly subsidized as in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria and Portugal which makes them very attractive for international students. In other countries, the high academic standards and the quality of teachers as well as the learning methodology and technical support infrastructure makes for world class educational experience. This trend is also facilitated by an ever increasing number of courses that are taught in English language.