Even as the government attempts to project India as a destination for international students, Indian students continue to display a strong affinity for a foreign degree. While admissions for foreign universities are at a halt, Indian students are choosing courses that come with an option to study abroad in the later part or offer global internship prospects. In striking contrast, foreign applications for Indian varsities have declined drastically.
Jacob John, a member of the National Association for Foreign Students Affairs (NAFSA) and Dean International Relations at Ansal University said, “There was always an imbalance in students coming to India to study and Indian students going abroad. While outbound Indian students can avail Vande Bharat, several study destinations including New Zealand, UK, and even the US have resumed student visas. In some cases, for later semesters, as initial classes for many will start online. However, such a facility has not been started by India yet and there are no clear guidelines yet for Indian varsities, leading to uncertainty. Thus, many students who had earlier enquired with Indian universities are also considering alternatives.”
While government-run higher institutes have always found it a challenge to attract enough foreign students, private universities register hundreds of such applications which not only bright diversity to the campus but act as a good financial resource as well. However, most of the private universities too, this year have received very few applications from foreign students.
JK Lakshmipat University, which usually gets hundreds of foreign applications every year, is yet to receive any confirmed foreign students this year. RL Raina, Vice-Chancellor at JKLU told indianexpress.com that while there is a decline in foreign students applying to the varsity this year, there has been an increase in the number of Indian applications. “We have seen an overall increase of 37 per cent from Indian students. For our two-year master’s programme with the University of Massachusetts, there’s a 20 per cent increase in the number of applications compared to the previous year. The increase in the number of applications can be attributed to the unique delivery model of spending the first year in India and the second year in the US. It serves as a great alternative for students who aspire to study abroad and do not wish to compromise on their dream due to COVID-19.”
OP Jindal Global University, which has over 250 foreign university partnerships, claimed that even though it has seen a lower number of foreign applications this year, the varsity has seen a spike in applications from Indian students of about 30 per cent. However, the university could not comment if the rise was to leverage its international partnerships.
Amity University, Noida is among the least affected varsities. Yet, it has received 350 applications from NRIs and foreign nationals so far, while in session 2019 the number was at 500 by this time. For Amity too, the Global Program Study, which offers an option to switch over to a foreign partner university through credit transfers is seeing a spike.
Relaxations and scholarships for foreign students
To fill in the foreign seats, several universities are making lucrative offers to international students. Lovely Professional University (LPU), for instance, is offering “more scholarships to foreign students”.
“Overall, we have seen a 40 per cent increase in inquiries and applications this year. Because of COVID-19, a lot of students who wanted to study abroad are now looking to join Indian institutes that have tie-ups with leading foreign institutes. This way, they will save a year and will also be able to pursue their dream of getting global exposure. This admission season, almost 10 per cent of all inbound admission calls that we are getting are for such programmes,” said Aman Mittal, Additional Director, Lovely Professional University (LPU).
LPU’s ‘credit transfer’ courses, which allow students to pursue the terminal semester/ year of their degree at a foreign partner university as well as award degree from the partner university, is among the most favoured. The second favourite is the student exchange which offers short-term stay or summer schools at foreign universities, informed Mittal.
Lateral admissions for outbound Indians
Ansal University is offering a lateral admission option for Indian students who were studying in a foreign university but are now back in India and reluctant to return. New admissions are also allowed to block a seat without paying the entire fees, while scholarships for national and international students are also offered.
Akhil Shahani, Managing Director, The Shahani Group claims that the demand for a “twinning programme” with a study abroad option has seen a rise over the years as a “low-cost option to obtain a foreign degree” and COVID might have just accelerated it.
This, he believes also shifts the focus of students from usual destinations like the US and UK to Canada, Australia and Germany because of the welcoming atmosphere in the latter for “highly qualified immigrants who have studied in their universities, especially in areas where there is a skill shortage like medicine, technology, and the pure sciences”. He also informed that “due to the high cost of Indian medical education, some lesser-known countries including China, Russia, Philippines. and Ukraine is eyeing Indian medical aspirants.” A similar pattern is being seen for courses with foreign collaborations as well.