Stop political interference and let colleges flourish
Armed with generous loans, several thousand Indian students are fl ying off to foreign shores every month. Quality education, better prospects, high salaries and improved lifestyles abroad are the key attractions. Apart from the preferred destinations of the US, Canada, Australia and the UK, there is also a huge rush to New Zealand, China, Singapore, Latin America and East Europe. Many believe the exposure and degree from a foreign university will land them a cosy job in a multinational company with ease.
Some of the figures are staggering. The number of international students from India to the US saw a surge of 35 percent in the academic year 2022-23 to 2.69 lakh, taking the total count of Indian students there to an unprecedented high of 10 lakh. This means one in every four foreign students in the US is an Indian. Similarly, Indian international students are now the largest group applying for Australian student visas. Nearly 44,000 student visas came for Indians last year, leapfrogging China, the largest cohort for several years. Faster visa processing, uncapped work hours and ample opportunities for student visa holders seem to have done the trick.
The RBI says education loans surged 17 percent year-on-year in 2022-23, with the outstanding loans clocking Rs 96,847 crore. This comes after a fl at 2021-22 and a fall during the pandemic. Spurt in demand, especially for big-ticket loans, and the willingness of banks to extend collateral and non-collateral loans have played a major role. While the banks are counting the eggs today, there is also a looming worry of high delinquencies in the future if the global job scenario stays gloomy.
While the IITs and IIMs cater to the brightest, India lacks private universities with high international ranking. Academic excellence takes a backseat when political interference throttles academic freedom and institutional autonomy. The Centre recently notifi ed new norms for appointing directors in IIMs, effectively taking control despite faculty pushback. If it continues, nobody can stop students from running away abroad in search of excellence. The exodus of students has left several professional colleges in the country with vacant seats, especially in graduate courses. Establishing top-notch institutions can slow the brain drain and save plenty of foreign exchange.