India's wealthy students opt to study in Britain

December 4, 2008

Wealthy Indian students who fail to get into elite universities at home see the UK as an "easy alternative", a British Council report says.

The study, published this week, says that, as a result of exceptionally stiff competition for places at Indian universities, well-off students are looking overseas to avoid middle-of-the-road institutions at home.

It says: "For Indian students who have wealthy parents - and ... rapid economic growth means that there are an increasing number of these - but who lack either the talent or the ambition to obtain admission to a top Indian university, attending a good university abroad is far preferable to attending a mediocre university at home."

It adds that one of the factors attracting them to the UK is the "relative ease of entry criteria into the top universities" here.

The report has been produced for the British Council by the Economist Intelligence Unit in a series on overseas student markets.

In the case of India, it predicts continued growth in students travelling to the UK. Indian students are the second-largest group from overseas at universities in the UK.

In 2006-07, of the 350,000 international students in the UK, 23,800 were from India, a number exceeded only by China, which sent 49,500. There are now about 30,000 Indian students over here and the number is forecast to double to about 60,000 in the next five years.

Unlike China, where the number of 15-19-year-olds peaked in 2007 and is now in decline, the number of Indians of student age is expected to grow by 8 per cent by 2015.

This, coupled with increasing wealth within India and a fall in the value of the pound, is forecast to further drive enrolments.

Pat Killingley, the British Council's director of educational services, said that universities were well prepared to "safeguard" themselves against any influx of students seeking an easy option, which she said was a greater problem at postgraduate level.

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