Indian students in international universities

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Business schools/ MBA programmes

Students in MBA programmes, 2016

2016: Indians outnumber Chinese, Americans

Manash Gohain, India top source for MBA seekers in schools abroad, Sep 21 2016 : The Times of India

Indians top when it comes to the number of international students applying for MBA programmes in graduate schools abroad, followed by Chinese and Americans.

A 2016 report by Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) that carried out a survey on application trends of 216 leading graduate business schools across the world revealed that India is now the top source of international candidates for both one-year and two-year MBA programmes.

“India has pushed China and USA to second and third positions in the international applications category ,“ the report said, adding that about 49% of schools offering full-time one-year MBA programmes showed a rise in applications submitted by international students when compared with the number of applicants under the category in 2015.

“Seventy percent of fulltime two-year MBA programmes recruit international candidates. These candi dates, especially those from China, India and the US, are also a priority for outreach and recruitment by a majority of one-year MBA and master's programmes in management and finance,“ it said.

Apart from the increase in volume of applications globally, as per the report, shared exclusively with TOI, 65% of European graduate business programmes recorded an increase in applications. Oneyear MBA, executive MBA, and online MBA programmes too have grown in popularity .“46% of US programmes and 41% of programmes in East and Southeast Asia grew their application volumes as well,“ it said. On the other hand, fulltime two-year course, parttime, and flexible MBA programmes worldwide are indicating declines this year.

“With the creation of tailored business courses like the Master's in Data Analytics, the demand for business schools is growing,“ GMAC CEO Sangeet Chowfla said.

Countries preferred


Hemali Chhapia, Dec 7, 2019 Times of India

Some of the countries that Indians went to for higher education in 2015-19.
From: Hemali Chhapia, Dec 7, 2019 Times of India

The lure of a foreign degree combined with the boom in greenfield campuses has meant that Indians, largely known to head West for the coveted stamp, are now criss-crossing the globe.

From campuses in the Central Asian Tajikistan to northern Europe’s Estonia, they are everywhere. The new academic topography spans countries from the exotic St Lucia to the unexpected Iran, Kazakhstan and Oceania’s Kiribati. Brunei Darussalam has a handful, so do Renion Island and Slovakia and Slovenia.

The overseas affairs ministry, which recently shared the data on Indians studying in various corners of the world, found that the total number of students who have travelled out for a foreign education rose from 5.7 lakh students in 2016 to over 8 lakh in 2018. The numbers, though, could be higher as data was being compiled when the statistics were provided.

One of the reasons for the scattering is that several iconic universities run branch campuses. In 2002, there were 24 registered branch campuses around the world and by 2015 there were 249, according to the Observatory of Borderless Education. Many of the over 1,000 students in Cyprus are studying for a Harvard degree. Yet, there are thousands studying in little-known local colleges as well. Medical aspirants are now looking beyond Russia and China to colleges where the entry bar is low and fees a fraction of what it costs to study in India.

Karan Gupta, a student counsellor, said, “Students head to these not-so-popular destinations because one gets a European or a foreign degree at a low cost. But they are not the top ones on a global platform.”

Unesco states the number of internationally mobile students was increasing and destinations diversifying. In 2017, there were over 53 lakh international students, up from 20 lakh in 2000 (Unesco, 2019).

Branch campuses, though, have come under a lot of flak. At the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s International Management for Higher Education conference, experts likened branch campuses to “hollow shells” of their host institutions as the real faculty did not move.


Hemali Chhapia, August 15, 2021: The Times of India

Indian students in international universities, presumably as in 2020.
From: Hemali Chhapia, August 15, 2021: The Times of India

The United Arab Emirates is home to the largest population of Indian students outside of their home country. Canada is a close second. And long-favourite America, after years of unfriendly visa regulations and unpopular policies for international students, has not only seen a decline in fresh enrolment but a compounding drop in the total Indian student population too.

A total of 1.2 million Indian students are currently studying in campuses abroad, more than twice the number that flew out a decade ago. Consultant Maria Mathai explained the distinction between the two kinds of international students. Traditionally, they are those who move away from family and home to join a campus beyond the borders of their country. “But many of the students in the UAE or Saudi Arabia are those who have joined a campus there as their parents are working in those countries,” she explained.

‘India is now the top source for foreign students in Canada’

Then there are Indian universities that have set up campuses in the UAE and offer Indian students a two-campus experience. Under such an arrangement, students join the international campus towards the fag end of their degree programme.

An international degree, the diversity of classes and a taste of freedom, both academic and personal, are the factors that pull so many to take the flight to a foreign campus. And then, the intense competition to get a seat in a blue-chip Indian institute also pushes many out. Over time, therefore, the age to fly out has also gotten lower. Post-school education has taken on a new meaning, experts say, from the times when last-benchers would be coiled in silence and aimlessly loitering in corridors to now, when few do not have a planned career for which they are preparing years in advance.

“Canada is a top destination for high-quality, globally recognised education in an open, tolerant, safe and multicultural environment,” Amanda Strohan, deputy high commissioner of Canada to India told TOI. She added India is now the top source country for foreign students studying in Canada.

“The Trump administration’s adverse immigration policies, which were not welcoming of students, pushed them to countries like Canada, Australia and UAE. Also, students with a tighter budget also prefer the UAE, apart from the fact that with the large Indian expat community, a relative or friend is easy to reach out to in case of an emergency,” said education counsellor Karan Gupta.


April 29, 2022: The Times of India

Indian students in international universities, as in 2017 and 2022
From: April 29, 2022: The Times of India

The Centre has discouraged Indian students from seeking degrees in Pakistan, saying they will not be eligible for further studies or jobs in India. The move comes on the heels of an advisory against studying in China. In their quest for better career prospects, Indian students are drawn to not only the top destinations but also to places that are outliers on the global academics and jobs map. Amid the evacuation of Indians from Ukraine as Russia invaded the country, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar had even expressed surprise at the big presence of Indian students there. In fact, a look at the countries to which Indian students flock throws up some not-so-expected destinations. 

Key Study Destinations Not Always Same As Sought-After Countries For Jobs

While it would seem that the heaviest movement of students is to the countries that are the most attractive for Indian jobseekers, that is not always the case as among the top draws for Indian students are several that account for low Indian expat presence. Among the countries with the highest number of Indian-origin people are quite a few that have historical, ethnic and cultural ties with India. Countries like Ukraine, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, which are among the top 15 destinations for Indian students, are not among those that traditionally see high demand among Indian jobseekers

Indian students in international universities

2016: China gets more Indian students than Britain

Hemali Chhapia, China gets more Indian students than Britain, January 7, 2018: The Times of India

‘Asian Country A Cost-Effective Destination’

The old guard of blue-chip foreign education, Britian, has been upstaged by an unlikely rival: China. Fresh data shows that there are more Indian students right here in the Asian neighbourhood than in the United Kingdom.

Though Indian students have been going to China to study medicine in significant numbers since 2010-11, experts attribute the latest shift to the “NEET mess” (the change in medical admission criteria in India) that took many by surprise and saw even more medical aspirants flocking to China after struggling to clear the new centralized admission test. And now there is another preferential change: many Indian students are looking to pursue engineering there too.

“It is a cost-effective destination, its medical degrees are recognized by the Medical Council of India, and the course is conducted in English,” says study abroad-expert Pratibha Jain. There are now 18,171 Indians in China versus 18,015 in the UK, the numbers for 2016 reveal.

“China was a natural choice to turn to for most Indian students who did not clear NEET as there is a language issue in the case of Russia. Also, there is a popular perception that doctor graduates from Russia find it difficult to clear the MCI qualifying exam to practise in India.”

The average tuition fee for a Chinese medical university is between $2,000 and $3000 annually, plus an additional $1,000 to cover living expenses. In 2015, the number of Indian students in China was over 13,500. as India ranked among the top 10 nations sending the highest number of students to Chinese varsities.

In fact, China has now become the third most favoured nation of international students after US and UK. It has also paced up as a host destination and is the fifth-ranked choice for Indians leaving the shores for an education. UK on the other hand, had slid in popularity after it did away with posteducation work visas.

“Apart from the fact that China is not as expensive as the West, they offer jobs. Also, more and more Chinese universities are finding a place in the global rankings, indicating that they are of global quality,” says Karan Gupta, career and education consultant.

South Korea continues to send the maximum number of students to China, but a close second is the US and Thailand comes next. Pakistan and India follow. When this decade opened, China was not on most students’ radar; now, having made rapid strides in the unlikely field of higher education, it is attracting several thousand foreign students every year. Most of them are studying humanities, followed by medicine.

As far as Indian students there are concerned, the largest slice is pursuing medicine. But as Maria Mathai, director, MM Advisory, points out, “What started with medicine is now expanding to engineering too as we see a lot of Indians now enquiring about computer science courses in Chinese universities.”

2017- 22

February 7, 2023: The Times of India

New Delhi : More than 30 lakh Indians went abroad for higher education during 2017-22, the ministry of education told the Lok Sabha.

Sharing the information, junior education minister Subhas Sarkar, in a written response to a question by JD(U) MP Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh and others, the minister said, “Ministry of home affairs’ Bureau of Immigration maintains departure and arrival data of Indians. But there is no index for capturing the category of Indians going abroad for higher education purposes.

Purpose of Indians going abroad for higher education is captured manually based either on their verbal disclosure or the type of visa of the destination country produced by them at the time of immigration clearance. Sarkar said 7. 5 lakh Indians disclosed their purpose of visit as study or education while going abroad in 2022. The number in preceding years was 4. 4 lakh (2021), 2. 59 lakh (2020), 5. 8 lakh (2019), 5. 1 lakh (2018) and 4. 5 lakh (2017).


See also

Indians in the USA

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