India embarks on drive to attract foreign students

Through effective policy and investment measures, Government of India is working hard to improve the international ranking of its higher education institutions as well as academic research organisations, and increase the entry of foreign students into the country

May 24, 2018

The government has launched “Study in India”, a single window platform covering all aspects higher education opportunities for foreign students in the country, including details of schools and research institutes, visa rules, fee concessions, among others

The majority of foreign students currently studying in India are from the fast-growing nations of Asia and Africa, with the highest share represented by India’s neighbouring countries — Nepal (23.65 per cent), Afghanistan (9.3 per cent) and Bhutan (4.8 per cent)

Efforts to attract higher number of foreign students and from more diverse geographies include identification of 20 Indian universities as “institutions of eminence” to build students’ interest as well as to improve India’s representation in world’s top 100 universities

India has the third largest higher education system in the world with has more than 800 universities and 39,000 colleges that have a combined capacity to enrol more than 20 million students. New investments have targeted setting up of world class research institutes

The Government of India has been working hard to enhance the global reputation and rankings of the nation’s higher education institutions and academic research organisations. Besides encouraging investment and innovation in the education space from both public and private sources, the Government has rolled out favourable policies to popularise the capabilities of India’s academic institutions to a global audience. The Government’s recent initiatives include the “Study in India” programme, primarily aimed at boosting the inbound traffic of international students to India and doubling India’s market share of global education exports from less than 1 per cent to 2 per cent.

Growing number of world class schools

India has the third largest higher education system in the world and is behind only the USA and China. The nation has more than 800 universities, 39,000 colleges with a combined capacity to enrol over 20 million students. Among the country’s spealiased higher education institutions, the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), National Institutes of Technology (NITs), Indian Institute of Science, National Institute of Fashion Technology, National Institute of Design, Delhi School of Economics (DSE), Chennai Mathematical Institute, All India Institutes of Medical Sciences AIIMS), Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), along with several upcoming private schools have already gained global recognition.

Private universities have also emerged with offerings in multidisciplinary courses, strong funding, prestigious collaborations, and are focused on making the students more industry ready. Take the case of Ashoka University, whose academic programmes are delivered in collaboration with world-class institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania, Kings College London and University of Michigan, Trinity College Dublin. Besides, a student can study mathematics and music, philosophy and photography and dance and literature, thus offering creative mixing in academic disciplines that often lead to new innovations. The OP Jindal Global University, which recently got autonomy, Shiv Nadar University, Azim Premji University, Symbiosis International University are other examples of such institutions with an international flavour that are attracting foreign students as well as teachers.

South Asian University (SAU), set up in 2010 in Delhi, is an international university established by the eight member nations of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) group. Offering post-graduate and doctoral programmes in Economics, Computer Science, Biotechnology, Mathematics, Sociology, International Relations and Law, SAU attracts students from all member nations and its degrees are recognised by all the eight SAARC countries. India’s Ministry of External Affairs is the coordinating body for two educational institutions – SAU and Nalanda University. Nalanda is another prestigious international university in India that has been rebuilt on the ancient traditions of its original construct that dates back to the 5th century.

Variety of courses attract diverse students

These schools offer courses covering a plethora of disciplines such as space sciences and aeronautics, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, economics and social sciences, health sciences and research, architecture and design, languages and India’s indigenous innovations such as Yoga, Ayurveda, among others. Besides the world class standard of the courses offered and that of supporting infrastructure in India, what has attracted students is the fact that they are offered at one-fourth the cost when compared with schools in more popular destinations of Europe and America. Recognizing the potential of developing India as a major education hub in Asia, the Government has been carrying out different initiatives to attract foreign students, particularly from Asia and Africa.

Currently, there are more than 48,000 foreign students in Indian universities, according to All India Survey on Higher Education 2016-17, with the maximum from Asian and African countries. The highest share is from neighbouring countries — Nepal (23.65 percent), Afghanistan (9.3 percent) and Bhutan (4.8 per cent). Students from Nigeria and Sudan comprise 4.4 per cent each, followed by Malaysia’s share of 3.3 per cent. To boost these numbers and market India as an attractive destination for education, the government launched the Study in India programme, a single window platform covering all aspects higher education opportunities for foreign students in the country, including details of schools and research institutes, visa rules, fee concessions, among others.

Study of India, with a budget of US$22 million for a period of two years, offers a single window platform for foreign students looking for admissions at more than 160 institutions spread across India and offering over 1,500 courses

 

Study in India –a multi-pronged strategy

The Study of India programme, which has been allotted a budget of US$22 million for a period of two years, involves a single window platform for foreign students looking for admissions in Indian schools. This portal offers over 1,500 courses in more than 160 institutions spread across India. The platform offers informations related to every aspect of the matter, including visa requirements, registration rules for foreign students and fee concessions. It has also sought to focus on students from developing countries of Asia and Africa while also expanding reach to new geographies. Along with budgetary allocation, Study in India has sought to reserve seats for foreign students in Indian universities, along with new fee waiver provision and expedited visa procedure for students from targeted regions.

Once students register on the portal, they can apply to any of the listed institutions on the site and will be selected on the basis of merit following qualifying steps. The website is also supported by an app and helpline numbers for online counselling. The Study in India scheme is targeted primarily at 30 countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, including Nepal, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Thailand, Malaysia, Egypt, Kuwait, Iran, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Rwanda. The programme’s goal is to increase the number of foreign students in India from 40,000 to 2 lakh by 2023. The portal, which went live last month, features India’s prestigious IITs and IISc, which have made to the top 50 institutions in the Times Higher Education BRICS & Emerging Economies University Rankings 2018.

Why Study in India?

According to Diana Britto, Deputy Director, International Admissions, Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) in Karnataka, students want to study in India because of its rich cultural diversity, quality of education and faculty and recognition of its degrees worldwide. Manipal currently has more than 1,400 foreign students from countries such as Malaysia, the USA, Canada, Kenya, Tanzania, Sri Lanka and South Africa, who are also attracted by its international academic collaborations with institutes in the USA, Australia, United Kingdom and other countries.

Foreign students are also encouraged by the fact that some of the leading world leaders and diplomats have graduated from Indian colleges and universities. Aung San Suu Kyi, incumbent State Counsellor of Burma, graduated from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University; Hamid Karzai, former president of Afghanistan studied at Himachal Pradesh University; Bingu Wa Mutharika, former President of Malawi earned his degree from Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University.

International industry leaders such as Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft is an alumni of Manipal Academy of Higher Education; Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google Inc studied at IIT Kharagpur; and Indira Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi Co is an alumnus of IIM, Kolkata. Besides the cost factor, Indian universities have another inherent advantage, the language of study in higher education institutions is English.

Government focus on higher education

Efforts to attract more foreign students involve the Government’s recent initiative to identify 20 varsities to create “institutions of eminence” with the aim of breaking into the world’s top 100 universities. The government has set aside US$1.5 billion for this purpose. One hundred institutions have applied for a place on this list, which will allow them to recruit up to 30 per cent of their students from overseas among other host of benefits.

The University Grants Commission’s (UGC) new policy, Graded Autonomy Regulation (GAR), has helped many top colleges to get autonomous status. The reasoning being that graded autonomy will help educational institutions to expand on their own, redesign their courses, launch new programmes, and be able to easily take in foreign students and faculty. According to experts in the field of education, Study in India programmes will help to cater to the higher education needs of students from emerging economies, which are largely not met by traditional first world systems. The fees in American and European universities are high and visas difficult to procure.

Education is emerging as a key focus area for all developing nations. India is no different and sees it as a tool for effective diplomacy. International students often turn out to be ideal ambassadors; leaders of foreign nations who study in India will always harbour an affinity for the country. Besides diplomacy, there is also the prospect of foreign exchange earnings, which often prompts countries to aggressively conduct fairs and campaigns. India too has just thrown its hat into the ring.