The 2020 Trends for Indian Students Studying Abroad

Up until a decade ago, just 66, 736 Indian students decided on pursuing an international education. Yet today, India is second only to China in the number of students flying abroad for an international degree. The Indian students studying abroad statistics of 2019, released by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs is an eye-opener,  753,000 Indian students were studying in universities abroad. The number is only going to soar in 2020. 

So, why this steep climb? Student enrolments in global schools have reached peak levels, largely due to our population of 1.26 billion, half of them at an average age of 25 years. More students are coming out of high school and with top grades. But getting admitted into an Indian university has become more competitive than ever before. When cut-offs to universities and business schools are set at 98% or even 99%, where are the rest to go?

The shift that is expected in 2020

Global aspirations have become a reality today for many in the middle-income bracket and this is the main reason for Indian students to decide that there are no borders to getting an education. Getting a degree from a university abroad and then finding a job there to pay-off student loans is what has made this shift possible. This is why the new PSW (Post Study Work visa) the UK government has announced will find more students choosing to study in the United Kingdom over the traditional country of choice – the USA. Expect to see the UK move up a few places from its current position 7.

In 2018, the picture was very different. The Indian students studying abroad statistics in 2019 indicates that a  big chunk of Indian students turned towards Canada to make their dreams come true. It came second only to the USA that maintained its position of eminence.The Indian students studying in USA statistics in 2019 shows a 2% decline from the previous year and this trend has been seen for the last few years according to the annual Open Doors Survey. This is largely because of a change in migration policies and also because other countries like Canada and Australia had become more attractive with the easing of their visa and work permits. Canada introduced the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) in 2006. Students who gained work experience could qualify for permanent residency. 

Top 7 countries for Indian students

                                      Top 7 countries for Indian students

Source: The Hindu Publication based on the Ministry of External Affairs report

” The target to grow the number of international students in the UK to 600,000 should send a clear message to students around the world: we want you here. ” Vivienne Stern, Director of the Universities UK International (UUK)

The withdrawal of the PSW saw Indian students to the UK get almost halved in 2010 -11. However, the post-Brexit immigration plan in 2019 made it urgent to fill the gaps for skilled workers. The 2 year PSW allows international students graduating in 2021, enough time to secure a job. If you are earning £30000 then you can extend it for another 3 years and apply for permanent residency. IEC Abroad has already seen a surge in enquiries from interested students and UK universities are also reporting a steep increase in applications.

What counts for Indian students studying abroad

Important factors for selecting a university abroad

 Important factors for Indian students when selecting a university abroad  – Source: QS

Majority of Indian students do not choose a study destination for the experience but rather for affordability and potential for employment. India has a challenging work market so moving to where the population is thinner and opportunities are more,  scores high on every student’s list of choices. Returning to India with an international degree and work experience puts them on a stronger career trajectory. These findings also explain why countries that restrict work visas automatically become less attractive to Indian students. 

A presentation in Nov 2019 at IECF Berlin revealed some staggering statistics. There are at least 35 million students in higher education and wanting to study further. Then, there are  88.5 million senior secondary students aged between 14 and 18 years old ready for higher education in India. So, why would Indian students go abroad to study despite some good opportunities available in India? We leave it to Aditi Sharma to explains why.  She scored 98% in her secondary education in the science stream but failed to secure a seat for a biotech course in the university of her choice in India. She wasn’t ready to settle for anything but the best and so an international degree was the option she took.  India has over 52,000 institutions but the one criticism is that very few graduates are coming out of these institutions with employable skills. This is another reason why the numbers are growing for Indian students finishing school and deciding on an undergrad degree outside India.

Another lesser-known factor that takes Indian students abroad are courses that have no parallel in India. Off-beat courses like the 4-year brewing and distillation course at the Heriot-Watt University or the MSc Biomedical Egyptology course from the University of Manchester. Marine engineering, geophysics and game design and development are some of the others creating a strong interest in India.

Specialized courses like automation, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and data science are pushing out traditional roles and employers are looking out for people with these skill sets. 2019, showed burgeoning interest in Robotics, Automation and Mechatronics and this will continue to grow in 2020 and beyond.

 For parents in India of students deciding on studying abroad, safety is almost always a deciding factor. Denmark and New Zealand have very low crime rates. Canada is another study destination with excellent education, diversity and considered safe by most Indian students studying there. Ireland too is now a destination of choice for its highly ranked universities, breathtaking location and its friendly community.

This year will see a surge in the students enrolling themselves in programmes outside India. Read more about the Top 7 Study Abroad Destinations in 2020