5 cheaper study abroad destinations: Cost of education and living, visa extension terms, best universities

When 19-year-old Kriti Malik decided to go abroad to study political science, she applied to universities in Canada, UK and France. She got through Canada, but the moment Malik heard from the Sciences Po University in France, she discarded Canada and did not wait for UK. “Not only did the course cost less, but it ranked No. 2 in the world, next only to Harvard,” says Malik, who is in her second year of bachelor’s course, and happy with her decision.

Though the US, Canada and UK continued to be favourites for the 4.44 lakh Indian students who went out for higher education in 2021, as per the Bureau of Immigration, these figures are likely to change. With more and more students realising that they can avail of high-quality education at much lesser cost, they are starting to think beyond the haloed precincts of the Fabulous Four (US, UK, Canada, Australia). What is likely to further sway this decision is the decline of the rupee against dollar from 74.3 on 3 January to 82.4 on 27 October 2022, which will escalate the cost of studying in the US.Some of the cheaper alternatives that are offering world class education are in Europe, including Germany, France, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Belgium and Italy. Other popular countries include Singapore and New Zealand.

These costs come down further in countries like Germany where the government heavily subsidises higher education in public universities. What adds to their appeal is that many universities are now ranked among the top 500 in the QS World University Rankings due to their improved curriculum and infrastructure. These countries also offer good post-study career opportunities and hassle-free visa extensions for job searches.

Another important factor is that the acceptance rate is high in European universities, even as the paperwork, admission process, visa interview and documentation is not as rigorous as that in the US, Canada and Australia. “The low fees in public universities, attractive scholarships, low living cost and lower exchange rate of Euro compared to dollar make these countries attractive,” says Hena Akhtar, Noida-based Career Counsellor and Special Educator. Besides, Europe is preferred for its multi-cultural diversity, easier lifestyle, access to multi-nation travel and ability to widen the scope of job search on a single visa.

“People are more welcoming, courses are diversified, and the ability to explore jobs is amazing,” Alok Bansal, Delhi-based International Education Counsellor. On the flip side, language of instruction in some countries like France and Germany is a barrier as it restricts the choice of universities, but there are still many courses in English to counter this problem. Though the Scandinavian countries score well on all these fronts, a big deterrent for Indians is the cold climate.

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