Higher Education: ‘Destination India’ for foreign students Editorial 16th Nov’20 FinancialExpress

Not many overseas students are studying in India:

  • The higher education sector in India remains inwardly oriented, that is, most of the students in Indian colleges and universities are Indians.
  • India has not been able to attract many foreign students in Indian higher education institutions.

Statistics on overseas students in India for higher education:

  • Out of over 53 lakh students in the world studying overseas (outside their countries), only a little over 45,000 students studied in India in 2018, as per the ministry of education.
  • A majority of these were from neighbouring or low-income countries, mainly comprising Nepal (24%), Afghanistan (9.6%), Bhutan (4.3%), Bangladesh (3.5%), Sri Lanka (2.7%), apart from Nigeria (4%), Iran (3.4%), Yemen (3.2%) as well as United States (3.1%).

China has more than ten times the overseas students than India:

  • On the other hand, China’s ministry of education reported nearly 5 lakh foreign students studying in the country.
  • They were mainly from South Korea (10.2%), Thailand (5.8%), Pakistan (5.6%), India (4.7%), the US (4.2%), Russia (3.9%), Indonesia (3%), Laos (2.9%) and Japan (2.8%).
  • China receives a large number of students, over 25,800 for doctoral research and 85,000 for post-graduate education.
    • In contrast, India receives merely 1,560 students for doctoral research, 4451 for post-graduate and merely 1,430 students for medical education.

Even many Indians are studying in China:

  • India is the fourth-largest country sending students to China, with over 23,000 students enrolled in Chinese higher education institutions (over 21,000 are enrolled for medical degrees).
    • Over 45 of China’s medical colleges are approved to impart medical education in English to foreign students.


  • China has made commendable efforts to induce academic rigour and quality to put its educational courses and degrees on a par with international standards.
  • As a result, a large number of degrees awarded to international students in China are recognised in many countries.
    • For instance, China’s medical degrees offered to Indian students are recognised by the Medical Council of India.
  • Moreover, China has made its higher and technical education highly cost competitive.
    • For instance, the average total cost to complete a six-year medical degree in China works out to about Rs 20-30 lakh.
    • In contrast, Indian private medical colleges charge exorbitant fees, despite the sub-standard quality of education and research.

Change in the times of Covid:

  • However, Covid-19 has changed things.
  • While Covid-19 has impacted trade and economy worldwide, it is also expected to impact the cross-border flow of many other things, including cross-border education and recruitment.
    • For instance, many countries are likely to be cautious in their recruitments and cross-border exchange with China.
    • Recently, the American International Recruitment Council (AIRC) cautioned recruiters against recruiting students from China.

India can benefit from this if it makes efforts in the right direction:

  • Such unforeseen circumstances in the post-COVID world could significantly transform the cross-border flow of students for higher education.
  • This could benefit countries which are prepared to capitalise upon such emerging opportunities.

New Education Policy 2020 will provide the boost in this regard:

  • India’s ambitious New Education Policy 2020 holds promise in this regard.
  • The new policy aims to open up India’s highly constrained education system with a number of unprecedented steps such as:
    • Flexibility of choice of subjects
    • Multi-disciplinary and integrated learning
    • Flexibility of exit at any stage of graduation with some certificate, diploma, degree or advance degree
    • Accumulation of credits that could be used later
  • Moreover, it also paves the way for attracting top foreign universities into India and promote Indian universities and institutes to venture into foreign terrain.

Way ahead – India can become a major destination for overseas students:

  • India can still become a major player in cross-border education in the post-Covid world.
  • It shall require a strong commitment on the part of all the stakeholders, including the government, entrepreneurs, academics etc. to uphold highest standards of academics and integrity, in order to realise India’s unexplored potential in higher education.
  • With the right measures, India can again become a global hub in education, and regain its ancient glory as the centre of knowledge.


GS Paper II: Social Issues Editorial Analysis

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