International student mobility from India to increase in 2021

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Starting in 2014, India has since then become one of the fastest growing sources of outbound international students and is now an important driver of overall growth in international student mobility, second only to China.


Some of the key factors which currently make India the world’s second largest outbound student market & will continue to be so are –

  • 500 million people below the age of 25
  • Half of India’s population will belong to the upper-middle class and high income class by 2030
  • Every year, 1.4 million students graduate from schools where English is the medium of instruction


Added to this, is the introduction of the new National Education Policy announced by the government of India, which sets out goals to substantially increase participation in higher education, boost research outputs and expand undergraduate programs to 4-year degrees.


Historically, Indian students have tended to choose the 6 top destinations for studying abroad. These are USA, Canada, Australia, UK, Germany and China. Together, they account for the major share of the more than 750,000 students that were studying abroad in 2019. Student enrolments for each of the 6 countries in 2019 were as follows :

  • USA – 193,124
  • Canada – 138,895
  • Australia – 115,607
  • UK – 37,540
  • Germany – 14,000
  • China – 18,000


However, new countries such as Malaysia, Ireland and even Russia have begun aggressive marketing campaigns of their offerings for international students.


The International student market can be very volatile with notable abrupt changes in destination preferences, especially in relation to changing policies around post-study work or settlement options.


Some of the key factors that Indian students consider whilst deciding on an appropriate international study destination are :

  • Ranking/Reputation (High quality education and Faculty profiles)
  • Jobs/Placements/Corporate linkages/
  • Research
  • Tuition cost/Cost of living/Scholarships
  • Location
  • Services and Support such as arrival services and Housing
  • References – Alumni/Current Students/Agents
  • Safety Perception (post-COVID)


Going forward in 2021, the economy is poised to grow by over 11%, schools are opening, exams have been completed on schedule and major higher education entrance exams are expected to go ahead as scheduled in September.


Indian students are now more accepting for blended delivery models i.e. programs that begin online and then transition to in-person learning. However, education institutions will have to continuingly provide guidance to students and other stakeholders on matters such as arrival procedures and quarantine requirements. Those institutions that are able to establish a greater connect with students will clearly have an advantage in an increasingly competitive market.

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