Indian students have always been enamoured by the prospect of studying in foreign universities. With the growth of the middle class, increase in the number of scholarships being provided and with education loans being available more easily than before, it is not that difficult a dream anymore. However, so many such dreams have ended up in tatters with an increasing number of students being deported from abroad. According to an estimate, about 2,000 students are deported every year. This year alone, according to news reports, at least 458 students have been deported so far. And once the stigma of having been deported gets attached to a student’s name, he/she might then find it difficult to obtain a visa.
Harjiv Singh, founder and CEO, Salwan Media Ventures and convener, One Globe Forum, explains why so many universities accept students from India, “India has among the largest populations of young people in the world; second only to China. And taking a loan is a lot easier now than 25 years ago. So the number of students going abroad has increased. In the US, UK and Australia, the demographic has changed. There are a lower number of domestic students and so they want to bring in more students from other countries. They find it a challenge to reach out to Indian students, and that’s where the agents come in. This is happening a lot more than it did even a decade ago.”
This pressure on the universities, according to Singh, opens the door for unscrupulous agents to exploit students in various ways, including promising them jobs even when the country’s law might not allow it. Singh also blames the Indian students for not doing enough research and placing too much trust in agents while making these decisions. “They’re relying on someone who himself has never been abroad or is collaborating with the university,” he adds. This kind of collaboration, wherein the agent accepts money from the university for every student that applies through him/her, is, in fact illegal in most countries, including the US.
Another problem that has been rearing its head is universities turning out to be fake. Recently, the UK government had shut down 32 fake universities and was investigating 30 more. In April this year, as many as 306 students faced deportation as the university in which they had enrolled, University of Northern New Jersey, turned out to be fake following a sting operation, which was carried out to expose a visa scam. Interestingly, a large chunk of the deported students in many cases was from Hyderabad.
The Australian boom and fallout
Around 2009, a lot of Indian students began to opt for universities in Australia; there was, in fact, a phenomenal jump in the numbers. Singh elaborates, “Education is Australia’s third-biggest export; a revenue of about $18 billion is generated by bringing in international students. This leads to a lot of loose recruitment standards; many colleges were focusing simply on using agents to reel in students.” The spate of anti-Indian racial issues/attacks that occurred in 2009 were subsequently followed by some deportations and the authorities realised their brand was getting impacted as a consequence. This resulted in visa rules becoming more stringent. “So the onus is on both sides; the students to do their research and the countries to tighten up the visa process,” Singh adds.