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Study in Chennai, India

Population: 8,900,000

City Overview

Chennai, formerly known as Madras, is the capital of Tamil Nadu and a major commercial, cultural and educational centre of South India.

Located just off the muggy Bay of Bengal, Chennai swelters in heat and dust. The streets are clogged with traffic, the air is heavy with smog and it is always hot. However, this lack of glitz and glamour makes Chennai one of the friendliest and most humble cities to study a graduate program in India.

Chennai is proud of its heritage. The city is a centre for Carnatic music and hosts an annual music season, as well as being home to the Tamil film industry known as Kollywood.

Education profile

Chennai is home to many well-respected universities and research institutes where you can study a postgraduate course. It is a particularly popular place to study engineering. You can study a graduate program in Chennai at:
Graduate programs in India are extremely popular, with most undergraduate Indian students choosing to continue to Masters level at some point. As the quality and content of postgraduate courses in India varies considerably, you should carefully research any program before committing to it.

Masters programs in India generally last two years for taught courses, with research programs and PhDs taking up to three years to complete. 

Immigration and visas

Indian student visas are issued for the duration of your postgraduate course in Chennai up to a maximum of five years. In order to qualify for a student visa, you will need to demonstrate the following:
  • You have a confirmed place on a course at a recognised education institution
  • You are not already in the country on a tourist or business visa
  • You have paid all relevant visa fees
You can apply for a student visa either at your national Indian embassy or online. Student visas are multiple entry but do not allow you to work while in India. Students with spouses will be able to apply for a spousal visa for their partner to join them.

Life in Chennai

Chennai doesn’t have the distractions of expat life in Mumbai, Delhi or Bangalore, but its social scene is growing. As the gateway to Southern India, Chennai has a culture distinct from almost any other city in India. Expect to see residents wearing traditional Tamil clothing such as saris and dhotis, while food is typically southern, with pancake-style dosas and doughnuts vadai’s popular.

Although Chennai’s beaches are beautiful, they aren’t good for swimming due to strong tides and the local attitude towards beachwear. Head out for an evening stroll on Marina beach and snack on street food like the locals.

Working in Chennai

Chennai is one of the fastest growing cities in India and is rated as one of Forbes magazine’s top ten fastest growing cities in the world. It is a centre of Indian business, with more than 24 $1billion companies anchoring their headquarters in Chennai.

The city’s industry is based around car manufacturing, software services, health care and financial services. Many large telecoms and electronics manufacturers have offices in Chennai, including Nokia, Motorola, Siemens and Dell.

Chennai is a popular place for expats to work, ranking third in India behind only Mumbai and Delhi for the number of foreign workers in the city. Almost 90,000 expats were working in Chennai in 2011.


Many universities in Chennai provide international students with university accommodation. This is normally in the form of single sex hostels, where you may share a room with another student. This is the best way of meeting fellow students and settling into Chennai life.

Some international postgraduates will look for the own apartment to live in. Good areas to rent in Chennai include Annanagar, Kipauk and Mylapore – ask your chosen university for more details.

Expect to pay around INR 9,000 for a one bedroom flat in the centre of Chennai.

Weather and Climate

Chennai has a tropical climate and lies on the thermal equator, giving it extremely hot temperatures all year round. As it lies on India’s eastern coast, temperatures stay constant pretty much all year round.

The hottest months of the year are from May to June, when temperatures can hit 40C. Chennai gets hit by monsoon from mid-October until mid-December, when cyclones can also be a problem.

What to do next

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