New Delhi: Amit Rao Kuchekar, 24, lounges in blue jeans and sandals in the New Delhi office of Studylink.com as he fills out forms for three UK universities. He wants what a lot of young Indians aspire for—a foreign MBA degree.
The rush cuts both ways. Universities in the US, the UK, Australia, and now Singapore, are opening local offices or employing agents to direct Indian students, who represent an attractive market as they pay up to three times the fees of local students, to the colleges of their choice.
In Australia alone, international student activity contributed $11.7 billion (Rs51,480 crore) to the country’s export income in 2006-07, according to a March report by Australia Education International, an arm of that country’s government. Indian students were second only to the Chinese in making this contribution.
For both sides, most of the wooing is done online. Studylink.com, a portal that places Indian students with foreign universities, employs three counsellors who also work offline when students drop into their office.
Kuchekar, who works in a business process outsourcing firm and began his quest for a foreign MBA programme in March this year, says he chose this portal to guide him through the admission process as most of his initial queries got answered on email.
“I did a Google search, got in touch with other agents but was not getting the same information from other agents. They would always say come to our office”, says Kuchekar, as he relaxes in his chair, exchanging jokes with his counsellor, Deepti Dhamija.
But Kuchekar’s plans have already run into trouble once.
After getting admission calls from three Australian universities, he realized that his bank loan might be a problem. The total cost of tuition and living expenses at Edith Cowan University, one of the universities that accepted him, was Rs21 lakh. But banks in India (he applied to the Oriental Bank of Commerce) demand a mortgageable security—such as a house—for an education loan exceeding Rs7.5 lakh.
Kuchekar, son of a nursing supervisor in a Delhi hospital, says his parents’ flat cannot be mortgaged as it is not a freehold property—which means they do not have a free title to the property—a point that has already upset his plans.
Nitty-gritty: Amit Kuchekar at his New Delhi house. He says aspirants to an MBA abroad should start planning a year in advance. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
He has temporarily shelved his Australia plans, unless he can get a family friend who lives in Australia to sponsor him.
Now, he is exploring universities in the UK where an MBA is usually a one-year programme and the cost is lower at Rs15 lakh. He plans to apply for an education loan of exactly Rs7.5 lakh, paying the rest from his own savings as well as family funds.
Kuchekar keeps in regular touch with five friends who study abroad, taking tips from them. His advice to MBA aspirants—start planning your study abroad a year ahead, as you never know what hurdle you may come up against.
Other tips from Studylink.com counsellors and the portal’s country manager for India, Deepika Ahluwalia, include finding the right counsellor. “Counselling is not equal to thrusting universities that you represent (on a candidate)”, says Ahluwalia, whose company advises students from application to visa stage, cautioning even on seemingly insignificant factors such as the weather in the city where they will study and live.