NEW DELHI: The number of foreign students who sought visa to study in Indian universities saw a decline in 2017 compared to 2016, prompting the authorities in the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development to chalk out ways to attract overseas students.
According to government figures, 36,887 students from abroad were granted student visas in 2017 while 38,947 had been given visas in 2016, marking a decline of about 6 per cent. “This decrease is significant considering the fact that there are so few foreign students enrolled in institutes of higher learning in India,” a ministry official told The Sunday Standard.
“We are planning to launch campaigns in some of the target countries,” the official said. Officials said some management institutes, led by IIM-Ahmedabad, had launched a special ‘Study in India’ campaign which could be emulated at bigger level. “We are contemplating to do something similar to tap students in target countries. We have to reconcile to the fact that students from developed countries will not come to India to pursue higher studies, but we can at least emerge as a favourite study destination in the region and in Asia,” an official said.
An All India Survey on Higher Education (2016-17), released on Friday puts the total number of foreign students in India slightly higher at 47,575. But, that is due to the fact that many of these students are pursuing three-, four- or five-year academic programmes.
Though the government claims foreign students come from 162 different countries from across the globe, most of them are from SAARC nations and African countries. The survey highlights that the highest share of students come from the neighbouring countries — Nepal (23.65), Afghanistan (95), Bhutan (4.8%). Students from Nigeria and Sudan comprise 4.4% each.
Dhananjay Kumar, who runs a web portal for college students, said, “Rise of international students spells multiple advantages for the economy as well as classrooms due to the cultural vibrancy students from other countries bring. But India does not paint a very rosy picture on that front.”
“Less than one fourth of Indian university hire consultants to build international campaigns to entice foreign prospective students,” he pointed out. Rising racial attacks seem to be keeping African students away, he said.
Preeta Arora, an education consultant based in Mumbai said India is not seen as a lucrative destination. “Global students are heading to countries like China, Singapore and Hong Kong despite India offering education at lower costs. Asian destinations gain more global talent due to catering to international audiences.”