India's aggressive push to regain its glory as the world's top education hub
Welcome to India? Source: Debashis Biswas on Unsplash

While Indian students make up the bulk of international students worldwide, the same can hardly be said about the number of foreigners enrolling in India’s higher education institutes.

Recently, however, the Indian government appears to be aggressively pushing to get those numbers up. It’s investing around US$22 million in a two-year program that will offer fee waivers, discounts and expedited visa approvals to attract students in 30 countries to study in India.

At the Indian Education Expo 2018, the country’s lower university fees and education standards comparable to that of institutions in Europe and the US were also touted as reasons for more Africans to enrol.

“Indian universities provide much more for the African students in addition to the fact that the fees are affordable,” said Nitesh Mahajan, assistant director of international admissions at Lovely Professional University in Punjab.

India has good reason to attract more international students. A report last year revealed international students are just not applying to Indian universities, which recorded a drop in the number of enrolments – a result researchers say reflects the unfulfilled potential of the country’s education system.

While India has seen a massive increase in the number of international students since 2000 – a mere 7,791 then – there were only 30,423 international students in 2014, according to the Association of Indian Universities’ annual report.

The figure is a far cry from the 4.85 million allocated seats for international students that universities are allowed to admit. Under the country’s policy framework, universities and colleges are allowed to admit international students up to 15 percent of their total student cohort.

In a bid to expand its soft power and attract more international students, the new Study in India program aims to award partial or complete fee waivers to more than half (55 percent) of the 15,000 seats offered for the academic year 2018-19, Little India reported.

Indian External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj referred to how scholars all over the world had been attracted to the ancient Indian universities of Nalanda and Takshila.

“The quest for knowledge has always been fundamental to India’s culture and civilization,” said Swaraj during the launch last week, The Indian Express reported.

“We can rightly say that India is one of the very few places in the world where ancient traditions and modernity coexist in harmony,” she added.

By 2023, the government plans to reserve up to 200,000 seats in its 160 public and private education institutions for international applicants.

Welcoming international applicants is touted as a “win-win” approach for students in emerging economies, whose higher-education needs “are not met by traditional first-world systems,” according to Meeta Sengupta, founder of the Centre for Education Strategy.

Compared to traditional study destinations dominated by the Western world, studying in India means fees will be lower, visas will be easier to obtain and competition will likely be lesser, Meeta said.

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