Why Indian Students Are Now Looking Beyond The US
The US remains the favourite destination for thousands of young Indians looking to add a foreign degree to their curriculum vitae. But the American dream seems to be slowly losing its appeal among those looking at a master's degree.
The number of Indian students who enroled for higher education in the US rose marginally, at 5.4%, in financial year 2018, said the latest Open Doors report, published by the Institute of International Education and the US department of state, bureau of educational and cultural affairs. But, it said, there was a 8.8% fall in the numbers in the graduate or master's segment. This is not new - last year also saw a 3% fall. But this decline is now getting more pronounced. What should worry the US is that the largest number of Indian students, who make up the second biggest cohort after China, enrol in postgraduate courses.
If that does not make the US sit up and take notice, the fact that several students are now looking at other countries with equal interest should. Take the case of Paritosh Prasad from Gurgaon, who worked for seven years before deciding to pursue an MBA at the University of Edinburgh. "I considered various universities in Belgium, Netherlands, the US, South Africa and Luxembourg. One of the primary reasons for me to select Scotland, UK, was the fact that Edinburgh and Glasgow are emerging financial cities. Another advantage is that the master's courses here are of one year, which is less than many other countries."
Tighter visa rules and bleak prospects of finding work in the US after postgraduation there has been hurting US universities. And countries such as Australia, Canada, Germany and France have been gaining.
"The growth momentum of Indian students to the US slowed this year due to the stricter policies related to optional practical training (OPT) and H1B visas. The poor prospects of finding work during and after studies makes the destination less attractive," says Rahul Choudaha, a US-based expert of international student trends and executive vice-president of Studyportals.
The Open Doors report, however, showed a 32% growth in the number of Indian students signed up for optional practical training segment - which allows certain student categories to work for two years on a student visa to get practical training. But this could be an indicator students are looking for post-study employment options.
Until recently, about 70% of Indian students applying abroad were for master's degrees in the US, says Ravi Lochan Singh, MD of educational consultancy firm Global Reach. Unsurprisingly, the focus after completing a master's degree in the US - which is expensive - would be finding suitable employment. And now, job prospects are better in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Canada, in fact, has emerged as a leading study destination for Indians, second only to the US. In 2017, 83,540 study permits were issued to Indian nationals, according to the Canadian High Commission in India. Approximately 5,000 of these were for postgraduate courses. "International students studying in Canada have an opportunity to gain valuable experience related to their field of study which will assist them in finding work later," says a senior official of the high commission.
Australia is another country that several Indians are looking at as an alternative to the US because it provides an easier pathway to permanent residency for master's students. Last month, a global management consultancy LEK Consulting found Australia emerging as a leader in attracting international master's students because of a more favourable post-study visa regime. "Over 70% of Indian students are looking at master's degrees and this is the segment that will provide revenue generating opportunities for Australian universities," says Anip Sharma, partner, LEK Consulting.
The country has seen a 34% annual growth in Indian students since 2012. "In 2018, the numbers of Indian students commencing a postgraduate degree in the University of Canberra has more than doubled when compared with 2017," says Deep Saini, vice-chancellor of the university in Australia.
Even European Union countries, despite being known as non-English speaking, are becoming magnets for Indian postgraduate students. In Germany, universities charge very low or no tuition and cost of living is between €700 and €1,000 a month. In France, the fees at a public university work out at around €300 a year. The cost of living in many cities in France is cheaper than in the US - it works out to between €13,000 and €18,000 annually for international students. In the US, cost of tuition and living expenses work out to between €30,000 & €45,000 annually for international master's students, according Adarsh Khandelwal, cofounder & director of overseas educational consultant Collegify.
About 87% of Indian students going to study in France are in the master's segment. The number of master's candidates is expected to touch 7,500 in 2018, from 5,300 in 2017, according to the Embassy of France in Delhi. What makes France more attractive is that it allows Indian students to stay on for 2 years after a master's. This gives students time to look for jobs.
In Germany, too, 80% of the Indian students for the 2017-18 winter semester were for master's. After the degree, the students can stay on for up to 18 months to look for a job. Stringent immigration policy and the lack of a competitive post-study work option has affected the popularity of the UK as a study destination. But postgraduate degrees in the UK are typically of one year, against two years in the US. Many UK universities are lobbying for an immigration policy with a competitive post-study work option. "A group of leading universities are part of a visa pilot scheme that aims to provide greater support for students studying at master's level who wish to switch to a work visa. The new visa scheme allows students to remain in the UK for six months after they have finished their course," says Malcolm Butler, director of global engagement at the University of Sheffield.