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The Daily Rhino
Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I heart FOBs
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THIS is one of my best mates. I thought instead of some generic google image, I'd give you a bona fide example of what I'm talking about: the Indian student. As you can see, with no hair gel or designer labels, it's patently obvious this is no British Asian. I'm talking about the Indian overseas student.

Long have they been the brunt of American jokes (we treat them far better here) and the stars of awful films like Where's the Party Yaar, American Desi and Van Wilder.

But now the FOB (fresh off the boat) is in demand. Countries around the world are falling over themselves to attract more students from India, as they enjoy the dubious reputation of being more serious, harder-working types. Oh, nerds.

Tony Blair and Condy Rice have spent time with Indian teens, patiently fielding questions in order to persuade them to leave home. The Chancellor of Oxford University, Lord Chris Patten, recently announced a trip to India with the sole purpose of attracting more Indian students, as the UK has fallen behind the US when it comes to attracting the brightest brains of the subcontinent. He said:

“I don’t think a serious university can do without a properly thought-through strategy for China and India.”

Those two countries again. Is no area of life free from their looming presence?! Indeed, Cambridge has also recently announced a greater focus on India - they have concentrated efforts on China up to now. Patten's trip will take him to Bangalore, New Delhi and Mumbai. He will be drawing attention to statistics like the fact Chinese students now outnumber Indians 2:1 at Oxford. Last year In total, 17,000 Indians came to study in the UK, compared with about 80,000 who chose America.

He thinks that the UK and especially some of the older establishments have a "conservative, stuffy image." Surely that suits Indians to a T? Of course not, kiddies from conservative and stuffy countries want to party hearty. Leaving an often sheltered home for the first time represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many young Indians.

They are increasingly opting for America as the destination of choice as US colleges and the Greek system promise what many frustrated Indian boys crave, frat parties. It would be interesting to compare the sex-breakdown. Most overseas Indian students are male - but I wonder if an equal proportion of guys head to the States as girls. I would assume so, as to pretend that Indian girls are less horny than Indian guys is naive at best ;)

OK it's not just sex and parties. The Indian press portrays America as a more glamorous destination for a budding scientist or engineer, with success stories around every corner, many of whom are Indian. The Grauniad claims the net worth of emigrants to the US from IIT alone is $30 BILLION. Lord Patten stated that Europe as a whole is facing a crisis in research and higher education; in 2005 the US spent twice as much as Europe on its unis and R&D:

“Last year, 25 per cent of European students went to America to do PhDs. None of us should want to be part of creating an ignorance-based economy.”

London's universities have traditionally fared well when attracting overseas students. Perhaps most successful of all is the London School of Economics, which has a student body who are overwhelmingly foreign. Overseas students bring in the bucks as they pay around £10,000 a year for a normal degree (almost £20,000p.a. for medicine), although with the coming year's top-up fee introduction, the disparity between home and foreign students' fees will be reduced.

The drive for the brown pound is not limited to the English-speaking world, China (which currently has only 800 Indian students) has upped efforts to bring in more desis. My girlfriend recently went to check out INSEAD, a business school near Paris. In the prospectus Hindi was listed as the second most common mother tongue amongst students and the pages were peppered with carefully-selected Indians.

This has only occurred due to the introduction of English-language courses in Europe. Indians are looking outside the US and UK for higher education, but they still want to speak the language left by the British. Hence Australia has seen a dramatic rise in Indian applications (and we're back to the party line of thought, see: Salaam Namaste).

But there is hope for British fans of FOBs, as last year foreign applications to US colleges fell by almost a third. In numerical terms, Indian students make up 5% of all overseas in the world and are now officially hot property.

UPDATE: Abi from nanopolitan points out this great link.

Permanent link action

According to Armeniapedia.org there's two blogs set up by Indian students studying in Yerevan, Republic of Armenia.


China will not get any significant number of Indians unless it starts serving more vegetarian options!
Onnik those are some off-beat finds, thanks! Indians are, without doubt, the most spread-out people in the world.

Ashish, I suspect it's going to take a lot more than veggie meals to get that many Indians into China. But who knows...
Dude, isn't INSEAD run Opus Dei. I know they are one the best B-school in Europe.

Thanks for deleting the message.
Sometime ago, The Week had a cover story on how universities abroad have been going all out to woo the Indian students.

It's not just the big boys (such as Oxford) are here firing on all cylinders. Just this morning, on my way in to work, I saw a poster -- of all places, on the back of an autorickshaw! -- urging Indian students to consider joining Sheffield Hallam University!

There is another angle to the choice of US as opposed to the other countries. During the eighties, the US was probably the most welcoming place; the others didn't care too much about Asian students. Since the late nineties, however, universities in other countries (UK and Australia, in particular) found that they could get some extra cash from foreign students (since they pay full tuition). This trend, coupled with the post 9/11 hostile attitude in the US (particularly in their visa procedures), has been tilting the balance away from the US. Still, a majority of the Indian students studying abroad go to the US.

Some quibbles about your numbers, though. The figure of 80,000 you provide is for the total number of students in the US (and I would guess that the other figure for UK would also be similar). The Week says some 120,000 Indians are studying abroad; dividing that by 4 gives you a rough estimate of about 30,000 students leaving India for higher studies every year. Of course, some 20,000 go to the US, with the rest going to the other countries.

I am not sure where you got the figure of 17,000 for the number of Indian students who went to the UK last year, but it appears to be a gross overestimate.
Thanks abi, that was a really good link, I'll update the post with it actually. Funny stuff about Sheffield Hallam, that place is a dump!

About the figures - they were quoted widely, but here is one instance: http://www.hindu.com/2006/02/15/stories/2006021503611300.htm. Thanks for highligting that, what I've done is make the figures for one year instead of studying in the countries at a given time. Whoops - this is what happens when you write things whilst half-asleep. Cheers again.
I need to do this:

Fabienne: Whose motorcycle is this?
Butch: It's a chopper, baby.
Fabienne: Whose chopper is this?
Butch: It's Zed's.
Fabienne: Who's Zed?
Butch: Zed's dead, baby. Zed's dead.

The new Butch is FOB Indian student. But who is Zed? Is Zed the SOS?

Copyright: Part of the dialogue is from Pulp Fiction.
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