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Foreign education takes a hit

Chitra Unnithan  |  Ahmedabad 

Blame it on the slowing global economy and the recent ‘racial’ attacks reported from Australia, Indian students have become a bit wary of travelling abroad to pursue further studies. Overseas consultants in India say there is a 10-15 per cent drop in Indian students choosing to go abroad this year as compared to last year.

The last five years have seen an average 20-25 per cent growth in the number of students enrolling for courses to destinations like the US, UK and Australia every year, according to the foreign exchange and consultant experts. But this year, the tide of recession has engulfed the plans of many students wanting to carve a career abroad with most dropping their plans and choosing to stay back.

“The number of students going abroad seems to have taken a hit this year as we are not seeing an impressive growth in students willing to go abroad to study. There are currently 1.5 lakh students in the US. Last year, there was a rise in 35 per cent students going to various destinations abroad. But this year, the enrollments seem to have come down to 20-25 per cent. While US continues to be the top choice, followed by Australia and the UK for MBA, finance, computer science, accounting and consulting. But there is also an emerging trend in students going to Singapore and New Zealand for courses in fashion designing,” says Mahesh Iyer, associate vice president, Thomas Cook.

The Australian ‘curry bashing’, too, has deeply affected the psyche of Indian students. Educational counsellors, travel agents and industry observers estimate that nearly 50-60 per cent of students, who had planned to apply for admissions this November to study in Australia, are already contemplating, or being guided to, alternate destinations like the UK.

Student admissions to Australia take place three times a year — February, July and November. However, “since the Australian High Commission takes almost three months to give visas, intakes for July are done,” points out Harsh Joshi, senior educational counsellor at Overseas Education Consultant. He adds, though, that the attacks could result in at least 50-60 per cent reduction for the intake this November.

Out of the around 93,000 students in Australia, over 40 chose to fly back in the wake of the racially motivated attacks. International education is the third largest source of overseas earnings for Australia, generating around US$12 billion in 2008 and supporting more than 125,000 jobs in the country. Ashok Pillai, general manager at Planet Education, says, “There has been a decrease in 15 per cent of students enrolling for studies abroad this year, as compared to last. But racism is prevalent every where. Even in the UK and US, students undergo racial abuse, which is very unfortunate.”

While most consultants are gearing up for their intakes this year, others have already closed on their enrollments, depending on the destination.

A 2008 report by industry body Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) noted that over $13 billion is spent every year by about 450,000 Indian students on higher education abroad. But the current situation may see a slowdown in the trend for consultants who are readying for the July or September intakes.

“Recession, to an extent, has affected the decision of students preferring to go to a foreign country to study. The overall interest and enrollments seem slower this year than last year. The slowdown in students going to UK could be less this year owing to the fact that the British High Commission had made stringent regulations for foreign students. Although we fear that we may lose our targets, we are hopeful that the intakes may pick up later this year,” says Vikas Contractor, branch head, Study Overseas.

First Published: Mon, June 22 2009. 00:22 IST