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Science Careers Blog

March 11, 2011

To Stay in America or Return to India?

India has ambitious plans for expanding its higher education system.  But to reach its goal of making higher education available to one in five young Indians by 2020, the country needs a million qualified college teachers -- far more than its own universities can produce.  "The most promising way" the country can "fill this gap is to recruit back" some of the thousands of its citizens who are now doing or have done graduate study in the United States, says a report issued Monday by Rutgers University, Penn State University, and the Tata Institute of Social Studies in Mumbai.  Entitled "Will They Return?", the report concludes that for the overwhelming majority of the 100,000 Indians now doing graduate study in the United States, the short answer is "Yes."  Over 90% of those the report surveyed indicated they are willing, and in some cases eager, to return home to pursue their careers.  

The report's authors, David Finegold, dean of the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations; B. Venkatesh Kumar, a professor at the Tata Institute currently visiting at Penn State; and Rutgers doctoral student Anne-Laure Winkler surveyed a sample of Indians who have done graduate work in the US and are currently either grad students, postdocs, or employees of various concerns in the United States and India.  Most are scientists or engineers and nearly all came to the United States seeking high-quality teaching and involvement in cutting-edge research.

The study's "most striking finding," the report states, is the "openness" of the "vast majority" of respondents to pursuing their careers in their homeland.  Under 10% expressed a strong desire not to return, although most wished to stay in the United States for at least a few years. Family ties and "a desire to give back to the motherland" were the strongest attractions of returning to India, while "corruption, red tape and the academic work environment" in India -- especially inadequately attractive research opportunities -- were the most often cited reasons to stay in the U.S.

From the standpoint of educational planners in India, therefore, "a great opportunity exists to attract this group back to India," states the report.  It also discusses other factors motivating decisions to stay or return and offers suggestions for making India a more attractive place for these highly educated individuals to choose to pursue their careers.

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