‘Bullish’ forecast of Indian demand for UK study

Students will continue to travel for degree courses despite obstacles

October 31, 2013

Source: Corbis

Next stop, the UK: there is still much pent-up demand for studying abroad

Many in UK universities are deeply concerned over whether they will be able to attract Indian students in the face of a tougher visa regime, the prospect of immigrants having to post cash bonds and the recent plummet in the value of the rupee.

But they have “nothing to worry about”, according to the founder of BrainGain, an online magazine for South Asians who wish to study abroad, because of the sheer volume of pent-up demand for education among Indians and dramatic improvements in the country’s loan market.

Harjiv Singh said he was “bullish”, at least in the medium term, about Indians continuing to come to the UK to study.

There was a 24 per cent fall in the number of Indians at UK universities in 2011-12, a drop offset only by more students coming from China.

Some blamed the scrapping of post-study work visas, which had given international students an automatic right to work after graduation.

Recruitment fears were further stoked this summer after the value of the rupee tumbled by up to a fifth against the pound, substantially increasing the cost of studying outside India.

But Mr Singh described this as an “aberration” and urged universities to look at the bigger picture.

The number of Indian students in the UK and the US has roughly doubled in the past decade, he noted, and there would “absolutely” be even more studying overseas in the future.

“In the next five years, I think you’ll start to see a lot more Indians go abroad for undergraduate programmes,” he predicted, with the percentage of those travelling who do a first degree rising from about 30 per cent to 50 per cent.

This is partly because the Indian government was failing to add enough domestic university places, he said, forcing aspirational students to look beyond the border.

In tandem, “the upper middle class now has access to finance that they didn’t have 10 years ago”, he said.

When Mr Singh left for the US to study in 1990, he could take only $500 (£300) of loans. The rest of the money for his costs was scraped together from family savings.

But the situation has improved immeasurably, he said, and will only continue to get better because India’s banking system was still “underdeveloped” compared with the Western world and was under state pressure to lend more to students.

As part of its Twelfth Five-Year Plan for 2012-17, the Indian government commits to creating a trust to guarantee against students defaulting on their loans, which should encourage lenders to lend more and at lower interest rates.

Mr Singh did acknowledge that the tightening of the student visa system had “caused confusion” in India and that the UK was now probably the third-choice country for prospective students, having slipped behind Canada (with the US being first choice).

But even a sharp drop in the rupee’s value would not deter many Indians if they had already decided to study abroad, he said. They would stump up the extra expense unless they were physically unable to do so.

“Parents will beg, borrow and steal to send their kids to the best institutions. And I don’t think the culture is going to change overnight,” he said.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Head of Visual Arts UNIVERSITY OF HERTFORDSHIRE
Research Officer - Big Data for Better Outcomes LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS & POLITICAL SCIENCE LSE
Lecturer in Oral Microbiology UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest