India’s foreign student recruitment ‘abysmally low’

Country’s universities losing out on revenue, diversity and global outlook, AIU report warns

August 26, 2017
Tourist in India
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India’s recruitment of foreign students is “abysmally low”, depriving its universities of potential revenue, diversity and global outlook, according to a report from the Association of Indian Universities.

This year’s edition of the AIU’s annual survey, Internationalisation of Higher Education in India, finds that there were 30,423 international students across all the nation’s higher education institutions in 2014-15, compared with 31,126 a year earlier.

Given that there are about 5 million students studying outside their home country worldwide, that gives India an “abysmally low” market share of 0.61 per cent, the report says, although it notes that numbers have risen from 7,791 in 2000.

Indian government plans to selectively fund 20 universities with the aim of making them “institutions of eminence” include the goal of increasing these institutions’ recruitment of international students and academics.

“India has tremendous potential to attract international students from all over the world,” says the report, written by Furqan Qamar, former vice-chancellor of the Central University of Himachal Pradesh and education adviser in India’s Planning Commission, now secretary general of the AIU, along with AIU consultant Veena Bhalla.

“Sadly our universities have not been able to capitalise on this opportunity. As a result, they are losing out on the advantage of not only generating some revenue but also of making their campuses diverse and thus [of] creating a global ambience.”

The dearth of international students also means that other nations are losing out on knowledge of India’s “rich tradition and culture” and its “modern economy and society”, they add.

The biggest sources of international students for Indian universities are Nepal (5,480 students), followed by people of Indian birth who live outside India (4,557), Afghanistan (2,732), Malaysia (1,357) and Nigeria (1,202).

India’s most prestigious institutions – the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Management – do not figure in the list of those recruiting the most foreign students. That list is led by IGNOU- Indira Gandhi National Open University, Savitribai Phule Pune University and the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, with names such as Christ University and Lovely Professional University also figuring in the top 20.

International students are charged higher fees than home students, the report notes.

The survey asked universities what they perceived as the main barriers to attracting international students, gaining responses from 112 institutions.

The main barrier (cited by 59 per cent) was a lack of applications from international students, followed by difficulties in recognition of international qualifications (27 per cent), lack of residential accommodation for foreign students (22 per cent) and gaining visas (21 per cent). The report does not state how many options institutions were allowed to choose.

The report suggests that factors in low international recruitment may include “inadequate or poor physical facilities, lack of systematic efforts to market our higher education and also the perception that the quality of higher education in India, although good compared with many countries, is still not world class”.

The report suggests a target to increase international student numbers to 500,000, rising to 1 million “over the next 10 years”.

“For [this] to happen, the higher educational institutions, the regulatory bodies and the government, both at the central as well as at the state level, shall have to work in tandem,” it adds.

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