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Gaining a foreign qualification is universally popular more than ever. Various international student mobility statistics show the USA, UK, Canada and Australia as the top three student destinations while China and India are the top countries from where these students come from. UNESCO data shows that almost 3 lakh Indians go overseas to study and the United States and Australia attract more than half of these students. Indian students have also been attracted to many non-traditional European destinations like Estonia, Latvia, Georgia et al and medicine, health, technology and business are the favourite fields of education.

With generous overseas education loans offered by all major banks in India, students who seek international education come even from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

Good quality international education can certainly give one a new lease of life and an enhanced lifestyle including very high salaries, significant career breaks, social status and could establish them in positions of influence as there are many successful Indians both in India and abroad who have international qualifications.

Yet there are many whose overseas education dreams become nightmares and financial disasters either because they do not make reliably informed choices, or they become prey to unscrupulous educational agents and/or education providers.

The good news is that most of these disasters can be preempted. Following are some of the questions every aspirant and the immediate family of overseas education should ask while deciding their study destinations, areas of study and qualifications.

Quality and standing of the institution: It is very important to assess the standing, accreditation and reliability of the prospective institution. These days most good universities/ colleges would present this information upfront on their website and some research of the national accreditation system of the destination country will help you assess their good standing. It should be noted that Australia is perhaps the only country where the international students’ tuition fee is insured by the Australian government against frauds and significant disruptions in course delivery.

Consider if the destination country offers you post-qualification work opportunities or are they simply what we call in the international education business circles as ‘degree mills’. You should especially be cautious of institutions that have significantly larger intakes of international students in the most lucrative and sought-after areas of studies.

Many who do not consider this may end up with a practically useless, expensive degree and as a result you may be forced to gain another qualification to find work.

Consider the language spoken in the destination country. If you don’t speak the language reasonably well (assuming you are getting English medium education) you should either be prepared to learn a new language or look elsewhere for employment or further education.

Consider if the destination country offers further stay including long-term visas, work rights and citizenship. If not, you need to have a clear idea about the country you would go to after you complete your studies. Countries like the USA, Australia, Canada and the UK have been popular for this very reason.

Consider the law and order and the living conditions of the destination country. If you choose a country that offers lower law and order and poorer living conditions, you may be taking multiple risks in your quest to gain a foreign education. However, a good standard of living usually means higher everyday expenses so, it is good to be prepared in this regard.

In times of the fastest growth in international student mobility and massive internationalization of education around the world, gaining a foreign degree can certainly be a game changer for the student.

Asking the pertinent questions and doing some basic research is something everyone with access to the internet can do these days. Seeking appropriate professional advice is perhaps the best way forward.

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