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UK, New Zealand, Australia lose sheen as student destinations

Kalpana Pathak  |  Mumbai 

The story would, perhaps, be told differently when the Indian Parliament finally allows foreign universities to set up campuses in the country (the Foreign Education Institutions (Regulation of Entry And Operations) Bill was tabled in Parliament this May).

For now, though, it's the United States that is once again expected to receive the highest number of students from India. It will be followed by Canada, according to education experts, while the UK, New Zealand and Australia are gradually losing their appeal as a student destination.

“While the US could lead the pack this year too, Canada is one destination that is receiving many student enquiries. Student traffic to the UK has already taken a hit in the north. Students are refraining from choosing New Zealand and Australia as an option,” says a Mumbai-based international student recruitment consultant who did not wish to be named.

Numbers tell the story. Indian students spend around $4 billion on higher studies abroad every year. Around 160,000 students from the country went abroad last year for higher studies. Of these, in academic year 2008-2009, over 100,000 Indian students were enrolled in American universities, according to the New York-based Institute of International Education (IIE Open Doors).

Indian students contributed around Rs 12,500 crore ($2.75 billion) to the US economy in the form of tuition and living expenses and every sixth international student enrolled in US higher education institutions is from India. The numbers will only increase, say education experts. They have their reasons. Opportunities in the or M.Phil programmes that US and Canadian universities offer, for instance, are considered better than that offered by any other university in the world, they say. Moreover, the post-graduate course is a two-year course against one year offered by the UK. One-year degree programmes are not popular with many employers back in India.

“This year, the US will consolidate its attractiveness for Indian students, especially for engineering-related master's level and one-year interdisciplinary programmes. This is primarily because of the future career opportunities available in the US as compared to other destinations. Further, the option of working for 29 months for students from engineering-related fields and additional availability of 20,000 H1 visas for graduates from master's and higher degrees will continue to make the US attractive,” says US-based education specialist, Rahul Choudaha.

Meanwhile, Canadian Universities – which received less than 4,000 Indian students on their campuses last year -- will see higher numbers as immigration prospects become better. In 2009, a study commissioned by the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada revealed that international students contributed more than $6.5 billion to the Canadian economy in 2008.

The Canadian government had also launched a joint pilot project called the Student Partners Programme in April 2009 between Canada’s visa offices in India and twenty member colleges of the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC). The acceptance rate for Indian students in Canadian colleges has doubled since, Member of Parliament Tim Uppal had said in Toronto, Canada.

In contrast, the UK and Australia are expected to see a dip in student inflow as they tighten immigration policies. For instance, students from India and other non-EU countries will have to furnish a bond of a specified amount before going there to study. This also means loss of revenue for these countries since international students pay three times higher fees than students from the UK and European Union.

Meanwhile, Australia's Tourism Forecasting Committee (TFC) early this year said it expects a drop of about 20 per cent in the number of Indian students studying in Australia due to a series of attacks in mid-2009. More than 70,000 Indians studied in Australia in 2009. Australia's higher education industry is its third biggest export earner after coal and iron ore and the drop in the number of Indian students is expected to cost Australia over $70 million. Australia's higher education industry has grown in value to $15.4 billion a year and students from India account for 19 per cent of total international enrollments.

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First Published: Mon, June 28 2010. 00:34 IST