Two years of ‘Study in India’ later, number of foreign students sees marginal rise

Arnab Mitra
Study in India, Study in India program, Study in India programme, All India Survey on Higher Education, AISHE data, AISHE report, AISHE report 2018-19, Study in India program 2018

AISHE data of 2018-19 revealed that around 47,427 foreign students enrolled in 2018-19. Image source: Representational Image/ File

The government is still struggling to get foreign students to choose India as their study destination even as it launched the 'Study in India' programme in 2018. The All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2018-19 revealed that around 47,427 foreign students enrolled in Indian education institutes in 2018-19, registering a negligible increase in numbers -- from 46,144 students in 2017-18, and 47,575 in 2016-17.

Even as the premier institutes including IITs fail to attract foreign students, an official from the Department of Higher Education, said the Study of India programme is still better than when they started. "In 2018, around 1,000 students from foreign countries took admission in Study in India programme, which increased to 3,000 in 2019," said an official from the Department.

The aim of this programme, which is being run in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), is to "boost the number of inbound international students in India and to double India’s market share of global education exports from less than one per cent to 2 per cent".

While the applicants are coming from six countries, the programme aims to attract students from 30 nations.

According to the AISHE report, India's main share of foreign students is limited to the neighbouring countries of Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and a few African nations such as Sudan and Nigeria. Nepal constitutes the highest share of foreign students with 26.88 per cent, followed by Afghanistan (9.8 per cent), Bangladesh (4.38 per cent), Sudan (4.02 per cent), Bhutan (3.82 per cent) and Nigeria (3.4 per cent).

Sops unable to woo foreign students

From the coming academic year, an Ind SAT (India Scholarship Aptitude Test) is likely to be conducted and candidates who score well will be offered a scholarship. "There are plans to conduct Ind SAT exams to select foreign students for scholarships. This exam will be conducted by National Testing Agency (NTA). This programme is implemented by EdCIL which is taking part in education fairs for creating awareness about the programme among foreign students," the official from the Department of Higher Education l mentioned.

Currently, foreign nationals are getting merit-based tuition fee waivers of 100 per cent, 50 per cent, and 25 per cent. The ministry is also planning to expand the Study in India programme for more institutes, based on NIRF (National Institutional Ranking Framework) ranking, as per the official. As of now, it is offered in 106 premier institutions only.

Foreign students are enrolling, but not through Study in India

Most foreign students opt for IIMs and IITs when choosing India, however, IITs said that most applications from foreign candidates come through collaborations and not via the Study in India programme.

According to IIT-Madras, which has the highest number of foreign students, the institute has not seen any foreign students come specifically through Study in India. "We have not seen any foreign students come specifically through this programme. Hopefully, with more awareness, more foreign students will choose Indian institutes," Mahesh Panchagnula, faculty at Department of Applied Mechanics, IIT-Madras, told indianexpress.com. 

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Students are choosing the undergraduate course over postgraduates ones with the Bachelor of Technology (BTech) programme being the most desired course in 2019, which attracted 8,861 students, followed by BBA with 3,354 students, and BSc with 3,320 students. According to the report, 73.4 per cent of the total foreign students are enrolled in undergraduate courses with about 16.15 per cent enrollment in postgraduate courses.

Foreigners prefer south India 

As per the states, Karnataka has the highest number of foreign students with 10,023 enrollment. "Apart from Karnataka, Maharashtra (5003), Punjab (4533), Uttar Pradesh (4514), Tamil Nadu (4101), Haryana (2872), Delhi (2141), Gujarat (2068) and Telangana (2020), reflects more than 2,000 foreign students," the AISHE report mentioned.

Need global ranking to attract foreign nationals

Since the past 10 years, India is unable to expand its influence beyond its neighbouring countries. Speaking to indianexpress.com, the office of the Study in India commented that the trend is expected to remain the same unless Indian universities rank higher in the global rankings.

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"Global students follow the world university rankings and choose the institutes having better representation. Even the premier institutes including IIT, IIM have lots to do to match the standards of foreign varsities. Apart from academics, the hospitality, living conditions of a country matters for students planning to study abroad," an officer remarked.