Updated: July 3, 2021 1:09:51 pm
The number of foreign students opting for courses in India continues to rise, as per the latest edition of the All India Survey of Higher Education (AISHE). In the year 2000, India welcomed only 6,988 foreign students, in 2019-20, the number rose to 49,348.
The foreign students come from 168 different countries across the globe. The highest share of students come from the neighbouring countries — Nepal (28.1 per cent), followed by Afghanistan (9.1 per cent), Bangladesh (4.6 per cent), Bhutan (3.8 per cent) and Sudan (3.6 per cent).
Engineering a hit among students
The major chunk of students pursuing undergraduate programmes opt for engineering courses. Of the total students, 9,503 are enrolled in B.Tech courses, followed by 3,964 in B.Sc, 3,290 in B.B.A and 2596 in B.E. courses.
Paramasivan Arumugam, Dean of International Relations, IIT Roorkee, says the engineering colleges in India are much better than compared to those in the neighbouring countries which explains why international students who can afford an overseas education flock here.
“Arts, Science courses are available in most countries and they do not require much infrastructure, but engineering has turned out to be a promising field for new avenues of employment. Premier institutes in Sri Lanka, Vietnam have very limited seats and most other countries do not have quality private institutes, hence students come to India for higher education,” he says.
Abhay Bansal, joint head of Amity School of Engineering and Technology (ASET), Noida, says students prefer four-year B.Tech programmes because most foreign universities require 16 years of education as eligibility criteria for master’s courses.
“Private universities have more autonomy than government institutes, which also allow us to have strong industry linkages. Institutes like IITs have certain criteria that cannot be relaxed. Besides, private universities offer generous scholarships to students coming from neighbouring countries, which makes the education experience more affordable,” Bansal says, adding that there are a total of 7 per cent (353) foreign students enrolled in Amity’s B.Tech programmes.
Despite most students joining engineering courses, there are very few or no takers for IITs. Arumugam believes that this is primarily because of the difficulty level of the selection process that IITs follow and secondarily, the fee.
V Ramgopal Rao, Director, IIT Delhi, agrees and says, “IITs are not able to attract foreign students at the undergraduate level as students are unable to crack the JEE Advanced. Students’ second best option is to join various private universities in India as they get quality education at an affordable fee.”
Gender disparity at all levels
Of the total students who join B.Tech programmes, 83.8 per cent are male. The scenario is similar for other courses – BSc (62 per cent), BBA (68 per cent), BE (86 per cent). The gender ratio is skewed at higher levels of education too. In MA courses, 60.2 per cent of students are male; MSc has reported an enrolment of 1620 students with 70.3 per cent male.
Rao says that the gender disparity can be attributed to the global scenario of STEM education, which is still a male-dominated industry. “Every year, more girls join STEM-related courses but the gender ratio is still skewed and will need more time to get even. Besides, most neighbouring countries have similar cultures to India, where girls are not encouraged to pursue technical education.”
Karnataka is top choice for students
While students have their preference for choosing a course, they certainly have a favourite city to drop in for pursuing higher education. The state-wise distribution reveals that Karnataka has the highest number of students coming from foreign countries, at 10,231. Apart from Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh (5089), Punjab (4966), Maharashtra (4599), Tamil Nadu (4461), Delhi (2345), Haryana (2321), Telangana (2261), Gujarat (2227) are other states with a significant number of foreign student in-take.
Venugopal KR, vice-chancellor, Bangalore University, says that foreign students prefer Karnataka because of no or less political and cultural disturbance in the state. “States that have a high number of international students also have a high density of institutes. Of the total 220 engineering institutes in Karnataka, 100 are in Bengaluru alone. Besides, education in India’s southern region is considered better because of the overall high literacy rates,” he adds.
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