UNH Admissions Connect: While a large Indian contingent goes abroad for higher studies every year, there are some students who are hesitant to go ahead with their study-abroad plans mainly due to lack of access to useful and crucial information from a credible source. Some of them are held back by the fear that their foreign degree, especially one-year degrees, will not be accepted by Indian universities. Incidents like the recent case involving students who were taken for a ride by some shady institutes in the USA, also play a part in creating doubts in the minds of many prospective students. What these students need is some good advice and from a person who is an authority on such subjects.
In a freewheeling chat, we spoke with Dr. PT Vasudevan, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), on a range of these subjects and also about UNH and its appeal to Indian students.
Here are the excerpts of the interview:
Please tell us something about your university?
Founded in 1866, we are celebrating our 150th birthday this year. We have around 12, 500 undergraduate and 2,500 graduate students, with our main campus being Durham. Over 100 majors are offered at the university.
What is unique about your university?
First of all, it is a research-high university and we excel in a number of programs, for example in space science, sustainability, natural resources, history programs, ocean engineering and engineering programs. Many of our faculties are well known like Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping.
Tell us about the representation of Indian students?
Over the years we have had a number of students from India. We currently have some 57 Indian students; 14-or-so in the undergraduate and the rest in graduate programs. Typically most Indian students come for engineering, political science and business studies.
What do Indian students studying in UNH prefer? Returning to India or seeking job there?
It is a mix. Most of the students want to stay back. Some of them come back. Our intellectual property law program is a top ten in the country, which is why students want to study here. There are a number of Indian students who have graduated and went back. Also, whether students stay back or return to India depends on the area of study.
What kind of alumni network do you have?
We are in the process of finding out who is where, and creating a center for professional and career success, part of the goal being to find out our alumni scattered worldwide. We have a Center for International Education at the moment.
A university is known by the number and nature of unique programs it offers? How does UNH fare in this regard?
We started a brand new program analytic (Big data) a year ago; it is an 11-month master’s program. It is going to be an attractive program for Indian students with high starting salaries.
But to get into the program, you need a degree with strong credentials and math background.
One problem faced by Indian students is one-year programs aren’t accepted by most Indian universities? What is your take on this thorny issue?
It isn’t time bound in the US. I finished my masters in three semesters. It all depends on credits, how many credits you earn, so some finish it in one year while others may take two years. And whether you earn 30 credits or less, depends entirely upon the student.
I think it is silly to say that it should be time bound. Master’s program can be one year, two years and even three years. It can be more than two years because there may be research and you have to present a project.
If you do research, you can go beyond two years, right?
Yes, but then you would rather do a PhD. Why would you stretch a master’s when you can do research by enrolling in a PhD program. Also, if the master’s is thesis based, where you have to do a project, it is hard to finish in one year.
If it is non-thesis-based, I can’t see why you cannot complete a master’s in one year. If you do a master’s in engineering that is non-thesis based, it is masters of engineering. If it is thesis-based, it is masters of Science. MIT has the same thing.
You have to do basic research in a university; you can’t always keep asking the question: what is the use of this research? That is not how basic research is done. The application may come 10 years, 20 years later. Be it making the best drugs, medicine, making inroads in biotechnology, nanotechnology, you have to do basic research.
What is the placement record of your university?
We have a very stellar placement record, like, in 2012, the full-time MBA program had a placement rate of 95%. The same is the case with most of the programs we offer, be it M.S. and Ph.D. in computer science, which again have outstanding placement record for its participants.
What are the different scholarships available for international students?
International students, including from India, are eligible for a number of scholarships that are listed for out-of-state students. Some of the popular scholarships offered by the University of New Hampshire include Presidential Scholarship (valued at $10,000), Dean’s Scholarship ($6,000), and Director’s Scholarship ($4,000). Most of these scholarships are offered for postgraduate study; and you don’t have to submit separate application forms to avail the scholarship, as the selection is based on the documents and materials submitted during the admission process.
Do you offer any twining programs or collaboration with Indian universities?
There is no collaboration in terms of students and programs. Also right now it is not a priority, as our goals and those of partner Indian universities must converge. We are currently in conversation with some Chinese and also Indian universities, but nothing concrete regarding twining programs has been taken. The problem is mismatch between the Indian and US calendar, which is the biggest challenge.
Recently there was this case involving some shady institutes in the USA, where students faced an uncertain future? How can such situations be averted?
I don’t know what case you are talking about, but still rather than finding fault with the institutes, I would fault the students. From what I know, Indian students are amongst the smartest out there and would not make the mistake of taking admission in a university that doesn’t have its credentials in place. It isn’t very difficult to find out the reputation of a university, as it is all over the internet, more so if it is a top university. So, you have to look at these students who went to those shady institutes, their educational background -do they have the right degree, where they were from, did they take admission in these institutes for reasons other than academic reasons?.
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