| Towering presence: University of Heidelberg
If you are looking to pursue higher education abroad, particularly in science, then Germany could be just the right destination. The country has some of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world, offers a high standard of teaching and that too at a reasonable cost. Even as most other nations continue to hike their charges, German universities offer a complete tuition waiver for international students. And there are quite a few scholarships as well that might take care of your living expenses.
German degrees in science and management are sought after the world over. Among the most renowned institutions are the University of Gottingen that is highly rated for its postgraduate science courses, University of Bonn, University of Bremen, University of Heidelberg, Mannheim University, Technical Fachhoschule (University) of Berlin and several others.
But before you embark on an applying spree, make sure you have a bachelors degree under your belt. German universities have more or less shut the doors on Indian undergraduate students for most of them don't recognise our school-leaving degrees. Indian university degrees, however, are accepted. 'For researchers and science students, Germany is a dream destination. They offer the right infrastructure and facilities and are years ahead of most countries. The technical institutes or Fachhoschules are among the best in the world which is why there's always a mad rush for their courses,' says Sreemoyee Banerjee, education counselor at Max Mueller Bhavan, Calcutta.
But it is the older institutions like the 700 year-old University of Heidelberg that gives the country a rich academic tradition. It has some 4,500 international students from 130 countries. In fact, Heidelberg is one of the most popular German universities among students from abroad which makes it difficult to get through.
For centuries, the Ruprechts-Karls-Universit't, Heidelberg University's official name, has enjoyed international acclaim as a centre of research and teaching. And as early as 1926 the university offered its first summer school for German Language and Culture. It has turned out to be a continued success. Every year more than 600 people come to Heidelberg from all over the world to participate in the course.
The university has the classical range of disciplines offered by a German university but at the same time, retains its international orientation with special courses of study and degrees. In addition to the programme for German as a foreign language, there is a number of courses in English designed for students from abroad. Courses on molecular and cellular biology (MCB), community health and health management in developing countries and master of science in physics are popular at Heidelberg.
And if you are eyeing an engineering course, there can be few places better than the Technical University of Berlin. It offers more than 50 courses, including mathematics and natural sciences, process sciences, electrical engineering and computer science, mechanical engineering and transport systems, civil engineering and applied geosciences, architecture, economics and management.
For more than a century, the Fachhoschule Mannheim ' University of Applied Sciences has been ahead of its times. It has a dynamic tradition and commitment to meeting future challenges with innovative educational concepts. The focus at Mannheim has been the training of 'highly-qualified, responsible, innovative and critical graduates' who are able to present, discuss and implement solutions.
The university actively promotes international, scientific and cultural exchange between students. The degree programmes focus on the demands and opportunities of the international community. Mannheim offers masters courses in automation and energy systems, biotechnology, chemical engineering, computer science, communication design, industrial engineering, information technology, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering among others.
To get into any of these, you need to have good grades at the graduation level. Many German universities ask applicants to take the TOEFL or the IELTS. But requirements vary, so it's a good idea to check out the websites. On an average, living expenses would come to around Rs 80,000 for three months. And you have scholarships to cover this. DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) offers several and so does Humboltd University. But almost all of these are for researchers and postgraduate students. 'Every year several students from Jadavpur University, Calcutta University and Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics receive these awards. But applicants from other cities receive more,' says Banerjee. Courses begin in October so your application must reach the university by March-April.
What makes German courses even more enticing is probably the German green card that came into existence a few years back. It allows IT and software graduates to work for five years. Even though Indians grabbed 21% of the 10,000 cards issued in the first couple of years, their presence in other courses of study have been abysmally low. Till recently, there were more students from China, Korea and Indonesia than India. But the number of Indian students has been steadily growing. German authorities believe the country is still 'grossly underrated' by the Indian student community. This despite the fact that hundreds of Indian researchers have received the Humboldt scholarship and done well. The country has even reformed its study system to suit international students, particularly Indians.
The language barrier, which can be a major obstacle is also gradually being removed. Major institutions like Mannheim University start off their courses in English to help students settle down. Munich University of Technology has seven courses in English. All courses at Georg-Simon-Ohm University are taught in English for the first two years. In the final two semesters, it's a mixture of German and English. This is a pattern that several other institutions follow.
Indian students can also take advantage of the free access to industry. All universities of applied science have 1 to 3 semesters of internship. It is mandatory for teachers to have a five-year stint in the corporate world as well. The reward for good students could well be a job offer either at the company's Germany office or elsewhere. And that's a lucrative proposition, for engineers' starting salaries range between DM 15,000 and DM 20,000. Despite the bonhomie with the commercial world, however, international students without a software or engineering background still find it difficult to secure a job.