Why Indian Students Will Continue to Study Abroad?

There has been recent report suggesting that “Foreign university campuses to help India save $7.5 billion outflow.” Even if the bill passes and becomes attractive to foreign universities, I believe that number of Indian students going abroad will not decrease at least for next five years. Here I am not factoring in decrease which is caused by unfortunate external factors like attacks on Indian students in Australia or impact of 9/11. So, two primary factors supporting outward mobility are:

1. Expansion at the expense of quality: Number of students graduating from poor and average quality institutions is growing at a much faster rate than the capacity of the industry to provide for jobs. Even if the jobs are available the number of students graduating from these institutions is quite high which restricts their employability. For many educated unemployed youth, higher education serves as a channel to get a second chance for employment and social prestige. Thus, this segment will continue to fuel demand for international education.

2. Increasing prosperity and aspirations: At the other end of the spectrum, Indian middle class is expanding and getting richer. In the last 10-15 years, growth of new sectors like IT, telecom, insurance and mutual funds have created many new high paying jobs. These upper-middle class families will be spending on high quality education for their children as it is evident from the increasing demand for International Baccalaureate schools in India. This increasing prosperity will create demand for even undergraduate programs abroad. Currently, 70% of all Indian students in the US enroll at graduate level (master’s and PhD).

This is not to discount the influence of foreign universities in India. There will be a segment of students who would be willing to pay for foreign credential at a lesser price in India. However, there will a segment which would continue to go abroad for several reasons including ability to pay, quality of education, social prestige or experience. Given the scale and pace of expansion of the system, without the emphasis on quality, the number of students going abroad will not be swayed by the entry of foreign universities in next five years.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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