Indian students prefer Physical Sciences over Engineering for Masters and PhD in US GRE data

Indian Students Prefer Physical Sciences Over Engineering for Master’s and PhD in US: GRE Data

Physical sciences have replaced engineering as the most popular choice of degree among Indians preparing to pursue graduate studies in the US.

Data shows that the percentage of Indian students taking the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) for engineering is shrinking. At the same time, physical sciences, including physics, chemistry and earth sciences, are now the most popular choice of degree. It is important to note that this data only reflects test-takers who have specified their intended graduate major at the time of the examination.

The GRE is a gateway admission exam for post-graduate (called graduate in the US) programmes, mainly in the United States. Higher education institutions in the UK, Canada, Australia and Ireland also accept GRE scores. It provides universities with a common criterion by which to compare applicants from all over the world. The GRE, as conducted by Educational Testing Services (ETS) headquartered in the US, assesses proficiency in mathematics, reading and writing.

The decline in candidates keen on studying engineering in the US is significant, dropping from 34% ten years ago to 17% in the testing year 22021-22. In contrast, GRE candidates interested in physical sciences increased from 27% to 37% over the same period.

According to Manya – The Princeton Review, a study abroad consultancy, this trend can be attributed to the fact that physical sciences graduate programmes in America are more likely to ask for GRE scores than engineering. “For example, UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), for physics and chemistry graduate programmes, requires GRE, whereas it does not mandatorily require it for engineering majors like electrical and computer engineering, computer engineering, mechanical engineering, etc.,” G Sharda, head, admissions editing, Manya – The Princeton told The Indian Express.

The decline of engineering against the rise of physical sciences is further corroborated by the Open Doors Report compiled by the US State Department and the non-profit Institute of International Education, which shows that the proportion of Indians pursuing engineering in the US fell from 38.8% in 2009-10 to 29.6% in 2021-22.

“BTech graduates are landing good and highly paid jobs in India. Getting an annual package of Rs 50 lakh just after college is now normal; this wasn’t the case two decades ago. This is possibly why you won’t find as many Indians studying engineering in the US as they did in the past. In fact, you’ll now see an increase in Indians pursuing master’s degrees [abroad] in sciences because job opportunities in that area in India are not as good,” IIT Hyderabad director B S Murthy told The Indian Express.

That apart, more students are opting for further studies in business. In 2012-13, only 1,697 people took the GRE intending to pursue a master’s degree in business. In 2021-22, this number more than quadrupled, hitting 7,912. The number of those seeking humanities and arts subjects, which already make up just a sliver of the examinees’ pie, has further declined from 0.3% in 2012-13 to just 0.1% of test-takers in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

The same could be said for life sciences too. In 2012-13, these students made up 5% of the test takers. This has now reached a trough of 2%. Alberto Acereda, Associate Vice President of Global Higher Education at ETS, said in addition to broader economic and societal factors, such as the impact of Covid-19, this trend can be partially attributed to the fact that some biomedical science programmes no longer require the GRE.

Sharda of Manya also suggested that this shift away from the GRE for life sciences can be partially explained by a 2017 survey conducted by the University of Vanderbilt and the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, which found a limited correlation between GRE scores and success in biomedical PhD programmes. As a result, biology, medicine and associated faculties are less likely to consider GRE scores as part of the admissions process.

The Open Doors Report again reflects that fewer students are inclined to pursue life sciences. The number of Indians enrolled in life sciences programmes fell from 10% in 2013-14 to 6.5% in 2021-22.

However, ETS stresses that the data at hand only considers intended graduate majors at the time of testing; subjects may change once enrolled.

Indians make up the second-largest cohort of international students at US universities. In 2021-22, India sent 199,182 students to America, an increase of 18.9% from the previous year. The number of graduate students, in particular, has seen significant growth: 2021-22 saw a 48% increase to 1,02,024. This correlates with the increasing popularity of the GRE in India; a record 1,11,476 took the exam in India this past testing year, more than double that in China.

Courtesy : The Indian Express

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