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US remains top overseas education destination

Australia gains ground again; Canada and New Zealand plan to expand their reach in India

M Saraswathy  |  Mumbai 

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This article has been modified. Please see the clarification at the end of the article.

Rajiv Chaturvedi, a 22-year-old engineer, had put aside his plan to visit the US for a Master of Science (MS) programme last year, when the rupee depreciated and almost touched Rs 68.85 versus the dollar.

As a result, the course-fee of the technology institute of his choice was up by almost Rs 3 lakh. This time, when the rupee has appreciated to nearly Rs 59.50 versus the dollar, Chaturvedi's plan to study in the US is back on track.

The US is the most preferred international study destination. Education consultants say Australia, Canada and New Zealand have become the next most popular destinations, on the back of easier visa norms and more scholarships for Indian students. However, the UK has seen a drop in students.

Vinayak Kamat, Director of Mumbai-based GeeBee Education that assists students in pursuing overseas education, explains there has been a drop in the number going to the UK after removal of post study work permit three years ago. He added that Canada has grown manifold in the past four years, while the US was still the first choice.

Data from the Institute of International Education, Educational Exchange Data from Open Doors 2013 showed that in the 2012-13 academic year, 96,754 students from India were studying in the US (down 3.5 per cent from the previous year). India is the second leading place of origin for students coming to the US after China.

Rohan Ganeriwala, co- founder of overseas education consultants, Collegify, says that overall Europe as a student destination has seen a drop due to lower job opportunities for students after their course completion. "The US economy has revived, bringing back student interest. Canada has also gained due to a thriving job market for students in the region," he added.

New rules that aim to strengthen Canada's status as a study destination of choice for prospective international students will take effect on June 1, 2014. The new regulations will improve services to genuine students, while protecting Canada's international reputation for high-quality education and reducing the potential for fraud and misuse of the programme.

According to the new rules, registered Indians who are also foreign nationals may study in Canada without a study permit as they have the right of entry into Canada. Further, study permits will automatically authorise the holder to work off-campus for up to 20 hours a week during the academic session and full-time during scheduled breaks without the need to apply for a separate work permit.

Canadian institutes have also begun extensive campaigns in countries like India for students to visit their country. For instance, some educational institutes have tied-up with schools in India, wherein these school students wanting to pursue higher education abroad are taken to Canada for 3-7 days and provided an overview of the educational and employment scenario in that country.

Naveen Chopra, chairman and promoter, The Chopras, says that Australia has picked up as a destination, due to the fact that the visa norms allow students who study in the country for two years to work there for two years. "Australia offers minimum wages of $16 per hour and some can earn up to $18 depending on the job," he added.

The new guidelines of Australia under the post-study work stream offers extended options for working in Australia to eligible graduates of a higher education degree. Under this stream, successful applicants are granted a visa of two, three or four years duration, depending on the highest educational qualification they have obtained.

Though Australia has emerged as a preferred location for students, earlier there were some concerns about racial discrimination and attacks against Indians. "While students and parents double-check on the safety aspects, Australian government has taken steps to curb such instances and, hence, enrollments are up," said a senior official from an education consultancy.

Apart from the visa relaxations, scholarships to students have also increased from emerging student destinations like New Zealand. Ziena Jalil, Regional Director for South Asia, Education New Zealand said student visas issued to Indian nationals seeking to study in New Zealand increased more than 10 per cent last year, making India one of the fastest growing student markets for New Zealand.

"This year too, there is an increase in the number of applications from students. Our student numbers from India have continued to grow. We have also increased our activities in India to attract more students," she added.

Jalil explained that international students who have achieved a New Zealand qualification may be allowed to gain experience in work related to their studies. Depending on what international students study, they may be able to work in New Zealand, and possibly even gain residence.

First, international students need to apply for a visa and get it approved. The study to work pathway has two steps - post-study work visa (open) and post-study work visa (employer assisted).

Post-study work visa (open) gives international students up to 12 months to get a job in a field related to their studies. While looking for a job in their field, students are allowed to work in any job to support themselves.

Further, post-study work visa (employer assisted) lets international students stay in New Zealand to gain work experience for a further two years (or three years if work experience is required as part of a professional registration). This visa relates to a specific job with a specific employer.

Meanwhile, UK has seen a drop in the number of students from India, on the back of tighter visa norms for students. This is especially for those who want to pursue a job in the UK after completion of course.

According to the April 2014 report 'Global demand for English Higher Education' by Higher Education Funding Council for England, there are declining numbers of entrants from South Asia - particularly India and Pakistan - at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The data also suggest a continued decline in student visas issued to applicants from countries mainly in South Asia - specifically Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Iran.

"While English higher education remains popular worldwide, there has been a decline in the growth of international recruitment since 2010. This is the first significant slowdown in the past 29 years. Data show that while entrants from India and Pakistan have halved in England since 2010, their numbers are growing elsewhere," the report said.

| US, followed by Australia, Canada and New Zealand top overseas education destinations
| UK has seen a drop in the number of Indian students due to tighter norms for student visa and post-study work permits
| The application fee for UK visa is up by 4% from April 6, 2014
| Canada has relaxed visa norms to let registered Indians study in that country
| Australia's post-study work stream offers extended options for working in Australia to eligible graduates

In an earlier version of this article, the quote attributed to Naveen Chopra was wrong. It has been corrected. We regret the inconvenience.

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First Published: Thu, April 10 2014. 00:20 IST