Mumbai: The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has clearly outlined the aim for internationalising higher education. There is a clear focus on promoting India as a worldwide study destination by attracting international students from across the world and accomplishing the goal of domestic internationalisation.
The number of foreign students coming to India for studies has surged by nearly 42% in less than a decade. However, data from the Indian government shows that the nations that send students to India have mostly remained the same over time, with a sizeable portion coming from South Asian countries, with Nepal accounting for the largest share.
Let us recall the Government of India’s “Study in India” initiative, unveiled in April 2018, a game-changing project aimed at attracting 200,000 overseas students to Indian colleges by 2023. In addition to answering the important question of how far we have come, experts weigh in on whether India is ready to be a destination for international students.
Can India be deemed a ‘South Asian education hub’?
According to Satyendra Upadhya, Director of International Relations at Somaiya Vidyavihar University, India consistently receives around 50% of its students from South Asian countries.
“The majority of South Asian students, according to my own study, chose India as a location primarily for IT and business management studies because of its future opportunities,” says Upadhya. A senior official from MU Information Bureau of Foreign Students agrees with Upadhya. He went on to say, “Enrolling foreign students for academic purposes is an opportunity for India.” With the recent NEP initiatives, he feels India may already be referred to as a “South Asian education hub”.
Visible growth from ‘Study in India’ initiative
According to a senior MU official, “Mumbai University has already accepted 600 foreign students in the previous few years, and more will be admitted in the following years. New scholarship initiatives will be launched in accordance with the requirements and if the NEP issues new directives.”
“Foreign students in India are looking for more than just scholarships as thousands of them may be willing to come without scholarships just to experience higher education in India,” the official said.
As a result, he believes that increasing the number of graded schools in NIRF will provide a broader choice to the global student fraternity through increased visibility, legitimacy, and transparency in the Indian higher education system.
According to Upadhya, the strategic initiative that was started to internationalise Indian higher education institutions could have better strategic goals, and better planning could be done in accordance with those goals.
Recently, Somaiya Vidyavihar has received students from 16 different countries. “But we are collaborating with foreign universities to enhance the growth of research capacity,” says Upadhya.
Professor Amarjiva Lochan, Jt Dean of International Relations at Delhi University, claims that the recruitment of international students has been disorganised thus far. “Delhi University admitted fewer international students overall in 2022 compared to 2021, although there has been an increase when we look at the larger numbers.”
“Finding the subjects that students from different backgrounds are most interested in studying and introducing courses in those areas would be the first step. The next step is for educational institutions to set up counseling sessions and publicise the courses in order to let people know that the desired courses are available,” Lochan added.
Fostering international students in India is a wise decision
An increase in collaborations with international universities will encourage foreign students to pick India as their educational destination. “The government has started easing the process to increase such collaborations,” says an MU official.
According to Upadhya, India only enrolls roughly 4% of international students compared to Indian students who travel abroad, leaving large gaps in mobility which is why foreign students are important as they eventually act as cultural ambassadors or diplomats for the country where they attended college, which is a type of soft power diplomacy.