A growing number of Bangladeshi students are going abroad in their quest for world-class degrees to have the skills and confidence, which will put them on a par with their global peers when it comes to employment.
Foreign missions in Dhaka have reported that a swelling number of students, having passed Higher Secondary Certificate exams, are crowding their offices for visas in pursuit of higher education.
Despite increased scope in higher education in Bangladesh over the past decades with more and more public and private universities, many still prefer foreign education, which opens a portal to new cultures and countries.
The United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany and India are among the most sought-after destinations, but recent years saw a steady rush for some very good universities in Asian countries like Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Japan, China and others.
The latest UNESCO Institute for Statistics data shows that 60,390 Bangladeshis were pursuing higher education abroad in 2017.
The students are going abroad to have qualifications and skills for becoming global citizens and improving future employment prospects, University Grants Commission chairman Professor Abdul Mannan thinks.
He advises students, who want to go abroad for education, to research their destination carefully.
Academics, however, blame failure of Bangladesh education system for this brain drain, which deprives the country as majority of these students do not return after completing their study or training and start living in foreign countries.
In the past, thousands of students used go to India for higher education but introduction of private universities somewhat checked the flow.
Bangladesh approved first private university in 1992. Now there are 95 such universities. Half of these universities got approval after 2007. There are 37 public universities of them 15 were set up to cater to the demand for higher education.
The UNESCO data shows that Malaysia, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, India, Saudi Arabia, Japan and the United Arab Emirates are top ten destinations for the Bangladeshi students.
UNESCO data shows that in 2017 a total of 34,155 Bangladeshis enrolled at universities in Malaysia, 5,441 in the United States, 4,652 in Australia, 3,599 in the United Kingdom, 2028 in Canada, 2008 in Germany, 1099 in India, 870 in Saudi Arabia, 810 in Japan and 637 in the United Arab Emirates.
Usually Bangladeshi students going abroad are from the affluent class and English medium background but with time students from higher middle class are also going abroad for world class degrees.
Students now prefer the Malaysian universities because of lower education cost while many Malaysian universities have international collaboration, joint programme with the UK, the US and others countries.
Malaysia is cheaper than many countries, per semester tuition fee for international students at University of Malaya ranges from $1270 to $3580 and from $2000 to $2410 at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, also known as National University of Malaysia.
Tuition fees for University of Nottingham Malaysia hover between $8140 and $14,120 while it is between $9280 and $25800 per year Monash University Malaysia.
The cost of living for international students in Malaysia $2,370-2,840 per year, including food, travel and accommodation, relatively low compared with many destinations.
International students are unable to work during their terms. In some cases they are allowed to work during semester breaks and school holidays of more than seven days, for no more than 20 hours a week and on a restricted category of jobs.
According to Times Higher Education website, a weekly magazine based in London, reporting specifically on news and issues related to higher education, tuition fees range from $5,000 to $50,000 per year.
In general, university towns in the Midwest region of the US have lower living costs, whereas the East and North East are more expensive. The average apartment starts at $500 per month (a one-bedroom apartment in a rural area) and goes up to $3,500 (a one-bedroom apartment in Boston).
On-campus accommodation is typically in dormitories, with two or three people per room. Residents share bathrooms, toilets and showers.
In 2017, on-campus dormitory rooms in the US averaged $10,440 per year at public four-year colleges or $11,890 per year at private four-year colleges, including all utilities and housing-related costs. There are specific calculators for totting up accommodation and tuition fee estimations on each university website.
Some 7,143 Bangladeshi students were studying in the United States at the graduate-level last year making Bangladesh ninth among top-25 student sending countries, US ambassador Mercia Bernicat said on July 19 in Dhaka.
The number of Bangladeshi students studying in the US increased by 53.5 per cent over the past five years, with 9.7 per cent increase in 2017 compared to the previous year while international average increase was 3.4 per cent last year, according to the 2017 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange of the US.
In 2017, the average international undergraduate studying in Australia needed $21830 per year.
Accommodation costs vary, depending on the type and region: the more rural regions, in the western and northern Australian states, will be much cheaper, whereas more urban areas, for example around Sydney, will cost more, particularly if you are downtown. On-campus accommodation is typically $66 to 208 per week, a homestay is $300-415 and shared rental accommodation is $108 to 280 according to Times Higher Education website.
Australian high commissioner in Dhaka Julia Niblett on August 7 at programme in Dhaka said there were many good reasons for a Bangladeshi student to consider education in Australia.
She had mentioned that Australian universities and educational institutions enjoyed an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research, with a strong commitment to quality, high academic standards, and programmes of continuous improvement.
Currently, over 6,000 Bangladeshi students are studying in Australia and this number is growing each year, said the Australian high commission in Dhaka.
According to Times Higher Education website in 2017, international students paid between $12750 and $ 44600 annually for lecture-based undergraduate degrees. An undergraduate medical degree can cost overseas students up to $48,460 per year.
Same year the average student rent came to $160 per week, however, students in London can expect to pay more than the figure.
Germany is one of just a handful of nations that offers free university education, along with Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden. Germany’s 16 states abolished tuition fees for undergraduate students at all public universities in 2014. Therefore, domestic and international students can study for free, paying just a small administration fee per semester.
However, from 2017 non-EU students will pay for study in the Baden-Wurttemberg area, which includes the universities of Freiburg, Heidelberg, Hohenheim, Karlsruhe, Konstanz, Mannhein, Stuttgart, Tübingen and Ulm.
It will cost about $1,687 per semester for a first degree at these universities and $730 per semester for a second degree. There are exemptions for non-EU students who have gained a higher education entrance qualification in Germany, international students from Erasmus member states, students with permanent residency in Europe and refugees who have a right to stay in Germany.
Students in Germany are advised to budget $950 per month for living expenses, which is in line with the EU average.
Universities of these countries usually offer different scholarships, waivers of tuition fees, said students who now studying there. But getting scholarships or tuition waivers is time consuming and previous academic achievements do matter in that case, and sometimes even depends on the additional exams required by the university.
Most universities around the world require an English language proficiency test for those whose native language is not English.
IELTS is the most commonly used and accepted international standardised test for that. On the other hand, most universities in the USA prefer TOEFL. SAT is a basic requirement for undergrad education all around the USA. Graduate Records Examination is the graduate level equivalent of SAT for admission into graduation schools.
Students can get valuable information regarding universities and education system of different countries from education exhibitions that take place in Dhaka and elsewhere in the Bangladesh each year.