India: from brain-drain to reverse brain-drain

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In the past years there has been a lot of talk about countries that have been deeply affected by “brain drain”, especially emerging economies and, more recently, European countries in financial recession. A country that could be the face of brain drain is India: only 5% of the Indians who leave India to pursue a PhD overseas actually come back home.

But what is brain drain?

Brain drain is: “the situation in which large numbers of educated and very skilled people leave their country to live and work in another where pay and conditions are better” 

In India it is extremely difficult for students to get into the universities they want. There are limited spots and it is excruciatingly challenging to make the cut, which forces students to look for alternatives overseas, where they won’t have the same problems because they will still have an advantage. Students going abroad for higher studies have increased by 256% in the last 10 years.

Another important reason why these students are leaving is due to the relatively limited choice of post-graduate courses in India, forcing them to look for alternatives elsewhere, especially when it concerns those who want to purse a career in IT, Engineering, Sciences or Medicine. Graduates fear that there are little opportunities and future for researchers in India.

Many also feel that obtaining a degree in India in comparison to countries such as the United States, where the equipment and research available to students of the aforementioned fields is often superior, doesn’t hold the same prestige. The US, for one, represents “leadership in science, research, education, and technology.”

Once they immigrate, rarely do these students come back home, especially after they’ve experienced the high living standards of their host countries.

So where are these people going to ? First choice destination is the United States (75% of researchers go to the US) , followed by the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Australia, Canada and more recently there has also been a shift of focus towards countries such as Ireland, Poland, France and Sweden.

This leaves India in a delicate situation where their brightest minds are overseas, leading to a shortage in expert work-force.

President Mukherjee, in a recent speech, showed his dismay with the country’s lack of innovation and said India should start removing programs that would further the loss of intellectual capital, while starting better research programs. In response, the government has begun to implement new policies so as to attract and incentive their students to stay in the country, such as flexible recruitment policies with companies, generous research grants and industry-academe collaborations. Furthermore, some high-ranking universities such as Oxford and Imperial College are working on the possibility of opening campuses in India so that students can pursue the PhD they want from those universities whilst staying in the country.

Lately, however, there has been a new phenomenon of people, mostly new generations, returning to their parent’s country of origin – this is called “reverse brain drain”. India, a developing economy and a so-called BRIC country, is seeing the rise of its own Silicon Valley: Bangalore. Hundreds of IT companies based in Bangalore are looking for skilled employees, and candidates with a Western education are seen with an even higher regards. Bangalore is the forefront of innovation and is attracting the brain-drain generation back to its shining lights. This is leading to a flow of people returning looking to satisfy the demand for IT-specialized employees.

India’s new science policy aims to position the nation among the top five global powers by 2020, which means that they need their intellectual capital, but the country will have to work hard to protect its intellectual capital because, despite new policies, India suffers from more brain drain in comparison to its brain grain.

Chiara Romano Bosch.

 

 

 

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