India is a home to some of the finest Universities in the world but despite this fact there is a surge in Indian students seeking admissions into foreign universities. So much so that it currently ranks second in the world when it comes to students pursuing studies overseas. Ever wondered why Indian students are opting to take the big step now more than ever!
It might be surprising to note that India is only second to China in terms of international student enrolment in universities across the world. This is mainly because of its population of 1.26 billion, half of which are below the age of 25. Thousands of youngsters leave India every year aspiring to make it big in their life by entering foreign universities.
Why study abroad?
The first question that comes to mind is, why would anyone want to study abroad? If you choose to pursue your studies overseas it will help you stay ahead of your peers who opted to stay back at home and study at local universities. Obtaining an international bachelor’s degree will give you global recognition that will prove that you have flourished and succeeded in an endeavour outside of your comfort zone. By choosing to study abroad you will greatly improve your language skills and even if you are studying in English or any another other language that you know, your vocabulary will grow immensely while living in a new country.
An international bachelor’s degree is also a gateway to improving your chances of getting employed abroad. Even for students who wish to return to India and seek job opportunities in their home country will have them in plenty. Businesses consider international exposure as an important factor when making decisions about which applicant to hire. The degree that you obtained abroad will have immense value and will demonstrate to your future employers that you possess a go-getter attitude.
Going beyond studies, you can try new activities and sports that may not even exist in India. Depending on the university you are studying, you may be offered exciting extracurricular clubs and classes that will help you broaden your horizons while living in the host country.
When you study abroad, you will most likely make friends with people from your host country as well as with international students from all over the world. Indian students can join clubs, societies, organizations and online portals that connect them with Non-Resident Indians living abroad. Student-run clubs, sororities, and fraternities are great ways to mix with an international crowd and form connections for life.
An upsurge in Indian students now studying abroad
According to analysis of data from UNESCO Institute of Statistics number of Indian students seeking admission into foreign universities surged from 66,713 in 2000 to 3,01,406 in 2016. It is observed that by 2016, the number of Indian students seeking admission in US universities have dropped to 45 percent and the UK at 6 percent. The new trend is that Australia and Canada have become the favourite destination for study overseas at the expense of the US and the UK.
Above 5 million international students were studying outside their home country in 2016. Over 3,00,000 Indian students study overseas and after China, India is the second largest source of international students.
Visible shift in destination preferences
Based on the analysis of data from UNESCO Institute of Statistics, the total number of Indian students pursuing studies overseas augmented from 66,713 in 2000 to 3,01,406 in 2016. There were 2,34,693 more students studing overseas in 2016 as compared to that in the year 2000—we can observe an average annual growth rate of 22 percent in a span of 16 years. The ever-growing ambitions of Indian students to pursue studies overseas reflects the growth of high to middle-income families.
Even though there is an increase in the overall number of Indian students abroad, at the same time it has also experienced a phase of decline because of the global financial recession. The number of Indian students reached its zenith at 210,649 in 2010 and then decreased until 2013 at 190,358 students. Again the Indian students studying overseas started growing again to cross 3,00,000 in 2016.
Studying in the US is a big dream for many Indian students. 59 percent of all Indian students overseas were enrolled in the US universities in the year 2000, followed by 7 percent in Australia, 6 percent in the UK and less than 1 percent in Canada. This data clearly shows that Indian students prefer to study in the US than other study destinations. The main reason for this is the high preference for master’s degrees in STEM programs which also offers pathways to work in the US through Optional Practical Training (OPT) and H-1B visa.
However, by stark contrast in 2016, the number of Indian students in the US dropped to 45 percent and the UK remained at 6 percent. Australia improved its position to 15 percent and Canada to 7 percent. It is observed that much of the growth in demand to study overseas was absorbed by Australia and Canada at expense of the US and the UK.
Reason for the shift
The pro-immigration policies of Canada and Australia is one of the main reasons for the shift in the share of Indian students overseas. Indian students are price sensitive and are on the look out for options that are low cost and offer increase in career opportunities. So, immigration and work policies greatly influence the choices of the Indian students.
From the year 1999 onwards, Australia’s point-based immigration policies were designed primarily to encourage international students to pursue a permanent residency in Australia. Canada’s Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) was introduced in the year 2006. It allowed students to gain work experience which will lead to them qualifying for permanent residency in Canada. On the other hand, the opposite happened for the UK. When UK abolished the post-study work rights, the number of Indian students decreased from 38677 in 2011 to 16655 in 2016.
The future of growth aspirations
There is ever-growing demand for international education among the Indian students. Study portals received more than 17.7 million and 5.7 million hits of global users in 2018. They queried for master’s and bachelor’s programs abroad, thus experiencing a surge of 37 percent and 77 percent respectively from users located in India.
Though the demand to seek overseas education is strong, the unwelcoming visa and immigration policies is a significant hurdle to translate that aspiration into reality. There are two groups of students that seek overseas education. The first group is the traditional one that opts for the cheap price with more options and the second group are prestige conscious and seeks an enjoyable experience.
The first group will continue to search for cheaper options that offer more “value for money” mostly through master’s programmes. These students seek alternative study destinations in the Middle East, Asia and Continental Europe which offer English-taught Programmes. As an example of this, we can observe that the Indian students in Germany has increased threefold between 2010-11 and 2016-17 to reach 15,529 students. Likewise, in UAE, thirty percent of all international students are from India.
The second group of experience-seekers mainly concentrate at undergraduate level and fields of study beyond engineering and computer science. These students have good financial backing to fund their education and they are less concerned about immigration and immediate work opportunities. As an example, we can consider the growth in the number of Indian undergraduate students at University of British Columbia that increased from 200 to 726 students — a 263 percent increase in four years between the years 2013/14 and 2017/18.
In conclusion, the percentage of students seeking overseas education greatly depends on their affordability. This greatly relies on the economic growth of India which will support the expansion of experience-seekers. Pro-immigration and visa policies in destination countries will attract the first group of value-maximisers. International education is always in demand, no matter what, and it has a great future ahead.