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Italian welcome for Indian students

VANI DORAISAMY

The Italian Government's attempt to internationalise its education offering has resulted in Indian students giving serious thought to higher education in universities there.

Photo: Vani Doraisamy

THE NEW DESTINATION: Indian students in Milan.

In Italy, not all roads lead to Rome, at least not for Indian students. With even provinces such as Trentino and Genova playing host to educational institutions of considerable merit, the country is hoping to give the U.S., U.K. and countries Down Under competition in attracting Indian students. Helping them is a joint initiative by the Government, the chambers of commerce and business houses. Come November, there will be a full-fledged educational roadshow in major Indian cities. The author who visited a few Italian institutions to report s on what is on offer for Indian students:

It was an unusual pursuit that took Sanjay Deodar all the way from his social volunteering work in Bangalore to Milan's Bocconi University. Carrying over the experience gained from working for tsunami victims, he is now pursuing a master's programme in International Health that he hopes will give him an ``European education in a much less competitive atmosphere than one would find in other Western countries.''

Like him, Pasupuleti Srinivas from Hyderabad found himself in the picturesque Dolomite mountain-fringed University of Trento, through a generous initiative from the Italian university that offered him a doctoral scholarship in computer science when he had gone there for a six-month internship as part of his M.Tech degree at IIIT, Bangalore.

A few years ago, it may not have been possible to spot too many like them in Italian campuses. Now, thanks to some serious thinking on the part of the Government — and aided by the demands on quality human material made by Italian businesses — every campus has at least a handful of students from India. Internationalisation is the buzzword on Italian campuses.

Even the difficulty in adjusting to an all-Italian climate (the language barrier being the most intimidating) has been taken in stride as Italy has one of the best lifestyle indicators in all of Europe. Cost hardly seems to be a deterrent: Srinivas, for example, spends less than 500 euros a month on rent and food. He lunches at the well-appointed university cafeteria, spends 150 euros a year on bus travel, has his tuition fee and medical insurance paid for in full by the university and goes trekking in the mountains during the weekends.

Says Andrea Sironi, dean for international affairs, Universita Commerciale Luigi Bocconi, ``There is a heightened awareness about India and China among our corporate partners. They ask us to look for Italian students who have exposure to these countries and vice-versa, due to the high intellectual capital available. Under our Campus Abroad initiative, we even offer dual degrees with partner institutions in India. We hope to forge similar partnerships with the IIM, Ahmedabad, and ISB, Hyderabad."

Though Italy has a fair sprinkling of public and private universities, the lure for Indian students lies more in areas such as industrial design, information and communication technology and management. Though among Asian students, China still sends the largest numbers, India — and even Vietnam and South Korea — are catching up. According to Sergio Sgambato, secretary general, Indo-Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, "There is a great demand for Indian students to be employed by the Italian companies because of the young talented engineers who would contribute in enhancing Italian trade ties with India.''

To this effect, Italian institutions are removing all stops: from introducing English as a medium of instruction, getting more international faculty members on their rolls and offering more scholarships and lower tuition fees to foreign students. At the Politecnico Torino, the oldest polytechnic in the country, for the first time, all degrees will henceforth be offered in English. Though students come here from even South America and Europe, the institution is considering offering scholarships exclusively for Indian students. In this car capital of Italy, the need for Indian students is fuelled by the demand the automobile industry has expressed for Indian engineering talent.

"It is a demand that will only grow in the years to come. We are even thinking of offering internships to Indian students to enter the Italian job market,'' says Mauro Battocchi of the Ministry of External Affairs.

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