How Pandemic Affected Indian Students’ Study Abroad Dream


Compared to top study destinations such as the UK, and the US, Canada offers an affordable cost of studying, a high employability rate, being home to top global universities, etc.

January 16, 2022, 18:53 IST

India continues to be home to one of the largest aspirants opting for higher education abroad. Students seeking higher overseas education continue to grow exponentially. As per industry insights, students opting for higher education in foreign nationswill grow from 770,000 in 2019 to 1.8 millionby 2024 while the students’ overseas spendingwill touch $80 billion per annum from the current $28 billion.

The good news is that despitethe initial dip in new international students, the pandemic has failed to stop the strong rebound and resolveof Indian studentsfrom going to study abroad.Indeed, India has emerged as the world’s largest sourcecountry for new international students.The students look for nationsthat are open to travel to gain a holistic, multicultural experience. Recentresearch points out that studentscontinue to flock to Canada, the UK, and the US in large numbersdespite the COVID situation. Changes in studentpreferences and government commitments are driving this increase.

Interestingly, postgraduate and specialised courses in English-speaking nations are witnessing accelerated momentum as a preferred international study destination among Indian students.Better quality educationand outcomes, post-study workopportunities, a research-driven curriculum, and aspiration for a higherstandard of living are key drivers of students’ choiceof global studydestinations.

Accentuating this pace is the ease of the enrolment process, getting a student visa, and the opportunity to eventually settle down through the permanent residency route. Rising income levels of parents and perceived gaps in the domestic education system contribute to the outflow. The study destinations are also highly influenced by existing relatives in the destination nation as they act as a local support system.

The presence of friends or relatives often serves as a local guidance platform and helps reduce living costs. Significantly, the student outflow for higher education abroad remains quite fragmented, driven by the above motivators, and the lucrativeness of the courses, higher standards of educational institutions, faculty, and industry oriented curricula that ensure superior placements and perks for students.

Due to the international outflow of students for higher education, Indian universities are being pushed to benchmark themselves against the best in order to strategically position themselves to meet the needs of the global knowledge society. As we step into the year 2022, the best nations to study abroad for Indian students vary owing to the broad range of students’ motivational drivers which we just discussed.

For instance, compared to top study destinations such as the UK, and the US, Canada offers an affordable cost of studying, a high employability rate, being home to top global universities, and a welcoming immigration regime. World-renowned universities, a flourishing Indian diaspora, the availability of multiple options for students looking for vocational studies, multiple routes for permanent residency, and up to 3 years of post- study work visa make Canada a top choice among candidates.

Host to the largest number of international students in the world, the US continues to be the top choice for students looking for STEM education. It not only leads to better career outcomes for students but also provides opportunities to work on cutting-edge R&D in the US. The finest universities, academic excellence, a flexible education system, an interdisciplinary approach, cultural diversity, and a vibrant campus life make the US an irresistible choice. Visa for studying in the US has been a challenge in the past but since the arrival of the new Biden administration, visa success has increased.

Internationally recognised degrees and qualifications, quality education, the widest range of programmes and courses, research infrastructure, work while you study, financial support, free medical benefits while you study, and one year taught master’s courses makes the UK one of the most popular destinations for students from around the world.

By far, the UK has become sought after due to its one-year master’s programmes that make it more affordable for students to pursue. But the UK does not have a welcoming permanent residency policy and will be a difficult destination for students looking for permanent job opportunities after their courses.

Due to well-defined permanent residency rules, Australia is also one of the top choices among Indian students when opting to study abroad. The easy availability of accommodation, top-ranking universities, along with the opportunity to work in Australia as well, are quite convenient for students.

Certainly, academic reputation and diversity of programmes, social elements, such as language and safety, financial factors like tuition fees, loan/scholarships, and cost of living, parental or friends’ recommendations, career factors like career opportunities, and settlements post-study, and marketing factors like referrals by consultants or promotional events-play a key role in the decision of country selection.

It is high time students weighed all their options prudently before scaling new global horizons. This is significant as international students, and scholars contribute to the long-term economic growth, job creation, and competitiveness of a nation, contributing to innovation and intellectual capital.

For instance, in 2020, international students added about $39 billion to the US economy, supporting 415,000 American jobs. Fostering collaborative research and academic training in cutting-edge technologies across sectors, international students, and scholars who work post-study benefit local businesses through their multicultural perspectives, STEM skills, and academic training to shape a better world.