NEW DELHI: India is likely to gain more international students as key study destinations, including the US and Europe, continue to struggle amid the covid-19 pandemic.
Indian universities said they have increased their online outreach to target Asia and Africa to attract more students in a year when other countries like the US have tightened the immigration norms. Universities believe that a late start to the academic year in August –September will help them expand digital outreach and give time to dispel fears about the pandemic.
“…There is an opportunity here for all the top institutions. I see more international students coming over to India in the new academic year. And it’s not limited to just the south Asian neighborhood,” said C. Vijay Kumar, director international relations at Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT), a leading private university with multiple campuses.
“In last one month, the response we are getting is huge. SouthAsia, Southeast Asia, Africa and Gulf countries are showing an increased interest in Indian institutions. During our outreach, the impression we are getting is since US and UK are largely out of bound due to the current crisis, India is a good alternative. The low fee and quality of education in India’s top 15% to 20% colleges and universities is a net positive for prospective students, and that is a growing realization among other countries,” Kumar explained.
Agreed Sarit K Das, director, IIT Roopar, “There is certainly an opportunity for top Indian colleges and universities. We know how the situation is at top educational destinations. How much we convert this crisis into an opportunity, only time will tell,” Das said.
The pandemic has hurt the US most, with over 1.81 million covid-19 cases and 105,000 deaths so far. Similarly, UK has reported over 38,000 deaths and France over 28,000 deaths.
Sandip Scancheti, past president of Association of Indian Universities, said there will be some gains as US and UK are almost closed. “Besides, Indian norms are not that restrictive like some key countries. That’s an advantage. We will however, get a good pool of Indian students who were earlier going aboard but will not be able to go this year due to visa restrictions,” said Sancheti, vice chancellor of SRM University.
India is home to nearly 48,000 international students as of now, and the country aims to take that number to 200,000 over a period of time. Of the total foreign students, the highest number came from Nepal which contributed 26.9%, followed by Afghanistan (9.8%), Bangladesh (4.4%), Sudan (4.0%), Bhutan (3.8%,), Nigeria (3.4%) and the US (3.2%).
Human resource development minister Ramesh Pokhriyal on Thursday during a meeting with vice chancellors and principals had reminded that how top institutions should look at international students and increase diversity on campuses.
Prabhakaran Mathiyazhagan, assistant director, international relations at Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research in Chennai (formerly known as Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Research Institute), said while Africa and India’s immediate neighbours remain a good source for foreign students. Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines are good destinations from where student flow is likely to increase because of the value proposition in India.
The success of the India as a study aboard destination this year will depend on two factors – how soon we slow down the spread of coronavirus, and how soon international flight operations starts, said Vijaykumar of VIT, and hoped that it should get sorted by August.
While covid-19 has taken away that physical travel to destination countries, the wide acceptance of digital medium has helped in customising offering to students who are already in the classroom or prospective ones in another countries, said Prashant Bhalla, chairman of education council at industry body the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry in India (ASSOCHAM).