Higher education in India: An emerging destination for Bangladeshi students
India has emerged as one of the popular destinations for international students on the lookout for top universities. Bangladeshi students are also drawn to its universities for undergraduate or higher degrees due to geographical proximity, affordable costs, and cultural affinity among other reasons. Moreover, the Indian government and numerous universities provide scholarships for international college students, including Bangladesh, such as ICCR, SAARC, SII, and so on. These scholarships are offered based on merit and the needs of Bangladeshi students and aim to build academic and cultural cooperation and stronger bilateral ties.
Recently, this author contacted two Bangladeshi students currently studying in India: Shahriaar Shakib and KM Abdur Rahman, who are both studying B Tech in Mechanical Engineering at NIT Silchar under ICCR scholarship and at KIIT under SII scholarship respectively. The author tried to know their motivations, admission journeys, and advice for future students.
Why study in India: The US, Canada, the UK, and Australia have always been the most preferred destinations for Bangladeshi students. So why choose the neighbouring country to study? For Shakib, it was the financial constraints, affordable quality education, and proximity to home, "When considering studying abroad, the financial condition is a crucial factor. Popular destinations like the UK, the US, and Canada often require a strong financial backup or reliance on part-time jobs. However, studying in India through the ICCR scholarship offers a fully funded opportunity with a monthly stipend for expenses. India has top-ranked universities like NITs and IITs, ideal for higher education without financial concerns. Additionally, you'll have the chance to visit your family once or twice a year. What better reason could there be than this?"
Apart from these reasons, the campus environment, the ranking of the universities, research, laboratory facilities, on-campus placement, and internship culture were also factors behind his motivation to study in India.
For Abdur Rahman, the reason behind studying in India was mainly the cost factor. He says, "After completing my 12th grade, I actively pursued scholarships to fulfill my dream of studying abroad. As a student from a middle-class family, I aimed for a fully funded scholarship and came across the SII scholarships through social media. Considering the high expenses of studying in countries like the USA, UK, and Canada and taking into account factors like culture, environment, comfort, and overall expenses, I confidently chose India as my preferred destination over other popular countries. Studying in India from Bangladesh eliminates financial issues, as the cost of living is significantly lower. These factors served as a reality check and ultimately motivated my choice to study in India."
Requirements to apply: For both ICCR and SII scholarships, undergraduate candidates can apply after passing HSC, considering good results in SSC, HSC, and English language proficiency. There is a lot of academic pressure in the Indian education system, so students have to keep that in mind. According to Shakib, it is good to know basic-level Hindi to make new friends if the applicant is an extrovert. "To adapt to local cultures more easily, one can choose the universities that are located in West Bengal, Assam, or Delhi. But in my opinion, one shouldn't consider the state over the university. Make a short list according to the university ranking and your desired subject," he adds.
Preparing for scholarships: For the ICCR scholarship, having good academic performance in the public exams and a sufficient score on the English language proficiency test is enough to apply. However, after getting selected in the primary stage, the applicants are required to face an interview to be finally selected for a scholarship. Shakib shares his advice for this crucial stage: "To ace any interview, you need to be mentally prepared and confident. Before going to the interview, prepare the answers to some of the most commonly asked interview questions, like: Why did you choose this university or subject? How is this degree or subject going to help you with the plan? Why should we choose you? Tell us about yourself, etc. Another important thing to do to ace any interview is to dress sharp with a clean look."
But for SII scholarships, there is an added layer of eligibility criteria, which is the PRAGATII, formerly known as the Indian Scholastic Assessment or Ind-SAT. Abdur Rahman aced this exam to be qualified for the scholarship, so he shares his strategy and advice: "I have taken some online classes to get prepared for the PRAGATII exam. This 90-mark exam consists of three sections: verbal reasoning, quantitative aptitude, and logical reasoning. On a regular basis, I have given time for each section of the exam, and then I have been successful by the grace of almighty Allah. It was the turning point of my life, as I was selected as a scholarship awardee at KIIT University. It is situated in Odisha State, in Bhubaneswar city. Here, I am studying B Tech in Mechanical Engineering."
Experience in India as a Bangladeshi student: Although there is a lot of academic pressure when studying in India, it has been a diverse and pleasing experience for both Shakib and Abdur Rahman. Shakib shares his experience: "Being a Bangladeshi student in India has been an amazing experience for me. The campus and off-campus environments are fantastic, especially in Silchar, Assam, where many people speak Bangla and share a similar culture. This similarity has made my transition easier. Academically, it was initially challenging to adapt to the curriculum and pressure. With back-to-back classes and labs from 8 am to 5 pm, maintaining 75 per cent attendance and facing six exams in six days without breaks was tough. However, the professors and classmates have been incredibly supportive. The hostel facilities are excellent, and while adjusting to the food may take time, it's not a major issue."
"After completing my graduation, I will go back to my country and to my family. And for the rest, I still haven't fully decided. I'm still exploring everything. I might go for higher study to pursue my M Tech degree. Let's see," Shakib added.
Abdur Rahman has been living in Odisha for two years, and his experience has been quite pleasant. He says, "India has a diverse culture, tradition, and norms, which I am really enjoying. The university environment is completely student-friendly. There are almost 2,000 international students from 75 countries, which makes our campus a mixed cultural environment. It helps students to know new cultures from different countries, and a student can also share his own culture with others. I did not face any difficulty after coming to India and I love the overall study system."
Final advice: Abdur Rahman advises not to hesitate when applying: "The best part of this scholarship is experiencing a familiar culture while earning a foreign degree. India is a rapidly developing country in education, technology, and economy. Internship opportunities are available in various industries, allowing students to apply theoretical knowledge practically. India offers ample research opportunities, enabling the publication of research papers that can pave the way for further education. Studying in India under this scholarship is a highly recommended choice for Bangladeshi students, ensuring a promising future, and I encourage them to apply."
Shakib's final advice is to apply according to one's passion, "Prepare your passport, academic certificates, and necessary documents. Choose your desired subject based on your passion and interests. Refer to the list of eligible universities on this website (https://a2ascholarships.iccr.gov.in/) and explore their curricula and environments. Consider the acceptance rate for international students. When ready, seize the opportunity and apply."
For studying, India has a lot to offer Bangladeshi students. Any Bangladeshi student who wants to obtain a world-class university degree can study here without significant financial requirements while staying close to home. Considering this advantage, studying in India with scholarships might be a great choice.