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Masters in India

by Mark Bennett

Why study for a Masters degree in India?

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. 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 postgraduate 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.

Masters degrees at 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. Whilst 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 are seeking 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), the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IITK), and the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM). 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.

Structure and content of Masters degrees in India

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.

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 will also charge an application fee, but this is usually nominal - often no more than ₨100 ($1.5). You should check the requirements at your institution before applying.

Qualifications

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 will be recognised without any problems. If in doubt, get in touch with your institution early in order 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.

Applying through EdCIL

Educational Consultants India Limited (EdCIL) is an organisation appointed by the Indian government to facilitate admissions and applications for international students. Applying through EdCIL will allow you to access useful guidance and assistance at various stages of the applications process and the organisation will remain as a port of call if you require advice at any point during your time studying a Masters in India. Currently only EdCIL's self-financing scheme is available to postgraduate students, but you can find more information at the organisation's website.

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

In order to study for a Masters in India, you will require 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 website of the Indian Government, or you may use the information and services at international visa portals such as VSF Global. If applying through EdCIL you may be able to take advantage of additional advice and assistance with your immigration process.

Fees and funding for Masters degrees in India

Fees

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.

Funding

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 programme in the US.

PostgraduateFunding.com

Our own postgraduate funding website provides a comprehensive database of small grants and bursaries available to support postgraduate study around the world, including travel bursaries, living cost support, fee waivers and exchange programmes. Click here to start searching for funding to study a Masters in India, or elsewhere.

Careers and employment prospects with an Indian Masters degree

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 an attractive area 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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