Masters Study in India - A Guide for 2020 |
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Masters Study in India - A Guide for 2020

Studying a Masters in India might sound like a particularly adventurous route into postgraduate study abroad, but that doesn't mean it isn't accessible.

You might assume that cultural and linguistic barriers make it difficult to adjust to student life at the heart of Asia. If so, you'll probably be surprised to learn that all Masters courses in India are taught in English and that the country is becoming increasingly popular as a destination for international students. Take a closer look and it's easy to see why.

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Postgraduate opportunities in India – what’s on offer for 2020?

As the home of Bollywood cinema, cutting-edge medical research and its own space programme, it's no surprise that India's universities offer attractive options for a range of postgraduate specialisms.

What's more, India's rapidly growing economy is spurring equally rapid growth in its university system, so now really is a great time to consider studying for a Masters in India.

These are a few of the most compelling reasons to study a Masters in India this year:

  • World-class reputation in Science and Technology – The Indian Institutes of Technology perform well in global rankings and represent an excellent place to begin your postgraduate education.
  • English is the language of instruction – Almost all programmes are conducted in English, so you needn’t worry about learning a new language.
  • Affordability – Tuition fees in India are generally low by Western standards, and so is the cost of living.

Masters Study in India - Key Details
Universities 920
Oldest University The Universities of Calcutta, Madras and Mumbai (1857)
International Students 45,432
Course Length 1-2 years
Average Fees INR 284,500 (USD $4,000)
Academic Year July to May

Indian universities

India's higher education system has more than doubled in size since the beginning of the 21st century, with thousands of institutions currently operating in the country. While this increase offers a huge range of opportunities for postgraduate study in all fields, the sheer variety of higher education institutions might appear a little bewildering at first. Don't worry though, the vast majority of university-level institutions in India are actually small teaching colleges, offering programmes in affiliation with larger universities.

Broadly speaking, Indian higher education institutions fall into four categories:

  • Central and state universities – These are public institutions, established and supported by national or regional government. State universities often serve as local hubs for higher education, offering degrees through large numbers of affiliated colleges.
  • State private universities – As their name suggests these are privately established and funded institutions operating at state level. They are not typically allowed to operate through affiliated colleges.
  • Deemed universities – These are high-performing institutions that were not established as universities, but have been officially recognised as having an equivalent status.
  • Institutes of National Importance (INI) – These are India's premier research and training universities, established by acts of parliament. The majority focus upon Science, Technology and Engineering fields and are further organised into the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and National Institutes of Technology (NITs). Admission to an INI is typically very competitive.

If you want to study a Masters in the cutting-edge Medicine, Science and Technology fields in which India is beginning to establish a global reputation, you will probably want to investigate the opportunities at the prestigious Institutes of National Importance. Currently the top-ranked INIs internationally are the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IITD), the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB) and the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IITK).

For Masters study in other fields, including the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences you will find a wide range of options available depending on the courses offered by Faculties at Central or State universities or through affiliated colleges offering postgraduate specialisms. High quality MBA courses are also becoming increasingly popular in India as the country seeks to drive further economic growth.

Regulation and quality control of Indian universities is overseen by the University Grants Commission (UGC). Their website offers up to date information on the different universities officially recognised and approved in India as well as a list of "fake" colleges attempting to operate without proper accreditation.

International campuses

Until recently the activities of foreign universities in India have been limited by laws requiring them to affiliate with domestic institutions. However, recent legislation has begun to clear the way for the establishment of branch campuses in India and several major international institutes have expressed an interest in setting up an overseas presence there. See our article on international campuses for more information on this mode of study.

Indian university rankings

With thousands of institutions, the Indian higher education system is one of the largest in the world. The reputations of its Institutes of Technology and Science are suitably strong, and several appear in the top 500 of the QS World University Rankings.

Top 10 Indian Universities in 2020
University THE 2020 QS 2020 ARWU 2019
Indian Institute of Science 301-350 184 401-500
Indian Institute of Technology Ropar 301-350 - -
Indian Institute of Technology Indore 351-400 - -
Indian Institute of Technology Bombay 401-500 152 701-800
Indian Institute of Technology Delhi 401-500 182 701-800
Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur 401-500 =281 701-800
Institute of Chemical Technology 501-600 - -
Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar 501-600 - -
Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee 501-600 =383 901-1000
Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham 601-800 801-1000 -
Information in this table is based on the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.

Do rankings matter for Masters degrees?

International rankings use all sorts of metrics to assess universities and they aren't all equally relevant to postgraduate study. That's why we've put together a guide to university rankings for Masters students.

Course types

The academic year at Indian universities usually begins in July or August, though some postgraduate Masters courses may commence at other points in the year. As an international student, it's worth getting in touch with your prospective institution and giving yourself plenty of time to apply.

The length of a Masters degree in India varies according to the requirements set by different programmes of study. In general you should expect to be registered for at least one academic year, but many courses will require enrolment for up to two years. These longer periods of postgraduate study can prepare you especially well for PhD research in your subject area – and offer additional time to explore and experience India itself!

Assessment on an Indian Masters will be tailored to your subject area and may involve coursework, examinations and the production of a thesis or other research project in the final stage of the programme.

Fees and funding for Masters degrees in India

Fees for Masters programmes in India vary dramatically between different universities and between different courses and subject areas within universities. In general you can expect costs to be relatively low by international standards, though private universities will often charge more than public institutions. Courses in medicine and related subjects may also be more expensive than those in other fields.


Indian universities themselves rarely offer funding to postgraduate students, but there are various scholarships and other forms of support available from external bodies. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) offers funding designed to encourage and support students from developing nations. Students from elsewhere may be able to benefit from opportunities administered by academic exchange programmes between India and their home country. Examples include the UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) in Great Britain or the Fulbright program in the US.

Applying for a Masters in India

Indian universities are relatively autonomous and will generally set their own standards for applications and admission to postgraduate programmes. Most also charge an application fee, which could be up to INR 21,335 (USD $300). You should check the requirements at your institution before applying.


Admission to an Indian Masters degree will usually require you to have completed a course of undergraduate study in a relevant field. Because Indian universities use the three-tiered degree structure employed in many other higher education systems (with undergraduate Bachelors degrees followed in turn by postgraduate Masters and PhD research programmes) you will probably find that most international undergraduate degrees are recognised without any problems. If in doubt, get in touch with your institution early to confirm that your qualifications are suitable.

Some Indian universities may set additional entrance examinations. This is more likely at the prestigious Institutes of National Importance, where competition for places may be high. On the whole though entrance examinations are far less likely to be required by Masters courses than by PhD programmes.

Language requirements

Academic programmes in India are almost always taught in English. Most universities will not require you to demonstrate performance in language tests (such as TOEFL, IELTS, etc) provided you already hold qualifications taught in English.

Visas and immigration for Masters students in India

To study for a Masters in India, you’ll need a student visa. These are usually valid for five years, but may also be issued for the specific duration of your programme of study. You will need to provide official documentation from your university confirming your admission and the duration of your course.

You will also need to submit financial information, including a receipt for any initial fee payment to your university and evidence that you possess financial support sufficient to bear the cost of further fees and living in India for the duration of your course.

Other requirements are more general, including passport sized photographs (one or more, depending on where you apply) and a passport remaining valid for at least 180 days. An application and guideline service is available at the Indian government's website.

Next steps

Masters study abroad in any country will broaden your horizons and enhance your CV. This is especially true of India, where the country's rapid economic growth has made it a good place for international organisations to do business. Your time as a postgraduate student in India may make you especially attractive to these employers or to companies operating elsewhere in Asia.

If you plan to go on to a PhD after your Masters then study in India will equip you particularly well for further specialism in the Science, Medicine and Technology fields for which the country's universities are becoming renowned.

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Last updated - 21/01/2020

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