What are the future mobility trends and recruitment prospects for Indian students?

Some experts have predicted that expanded capacity of higher education institutions in India will slow the mobility students going abroad. However, I have taken a contrarian view that in the medium to long term mobility of Indian students will increase.

This is primarily because capacity has not kept up pace with quality of institutions and aspirations of individuals. Increasing affordability for foreign education among upper-middle class coupled with attractiveness for the US for STEM OPT and now green card prospects will continue to fuel demand for graduate education.

In the immediate term, data for graduate applications and visa applications are already reflecting growth in number of students from India for fall 2013.

According to the Council of Graduate Studies, number of application from India increased by 20% as comapared to decline of 5% for China, based on a survey of over 275 institutions which conferred about 2/3rd of the graduate degrees in the US.

Likewise, according to the Times of India, US consulate issued 5,600 student visas between October 2012-February 2013 marking a 50% increase since last year.

While undergraduate pipeline will take couple of more years to see substantial jump, it is inevitable due to the expanding upper-middle class which wants to invest in foreign education of their children (Gen-Q).

To sum up, here are some forecasts for mobility of Indian students in next 3-5 years:

  • US will continue to be the most preferred destination not only due to sociocultural prestige associated but also due to 29-months post-work opportunity (OPT) for STEM-related fields and immigration prospects.
  • Master’s level programs in STEM related fields will witness a significant interest from self-financed Indian students. This is in contrast with traditional segment of Indian students who were highly dependent on graduate assistantships. Similar trend is already taking place with large number of Chinese students in accounting and specialized business programs. Students segment for self-financed master’s degree also fueled demand for British degrees few years back, however, now facing a decline due to stricter immigration rules.
  • Further down the line, this ability to afford global education will also trickle down to undergraduate level when children of upper-middle class parents who benefited from new liberalized economy in 90’s and IT boom will start to seek undergraduate education abroad in larger numbers.

Overall, prospects for recruiting students from India are improving, especially for institutions interested in recruiting self-financed students. However, the last mile problem remains–how and where to find them?


Dr. Rahul Choudaha (copyright)

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