The number of rural Indian students choosing to study in the US, Canada, Australia, UK, Ireland, and New Zealand nearly doubled from pre-pandemic levels after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted worldwide.
Chief executive of Universities Australia, Catriona Jackson shared that there are upwards of 76,000 Indian students Down Under. This number is set to rise after Australia and India signed a bilateral trade pact earlier this year.
A new life abroad key to happiness for rural Indians
For decades now, middle-class Indians have sought better prospects overseas, but deteriorating economic conditions have propelled families from rural areas to invest in their childrens’ new lives outside of India.
One such example was 19-year-old Sachin, whose family collected 2 million rupees (approximately USD$25,035) to cover the fees for his English language tuition. He had not done well to get a spot in a top local college and decided that a Canadian student visa was the solution to his problem.
Sachin, as he prefers to be called, was quoted to have said to Reuters: “My dream is to settle abroad as I see no future in India.” His plan is to take the first flight to Canada where he hopes to graduate with a two-year diploma in business management and secure a work visa.
Rural Indians’ aspirations are rising
Migrating to the West has neither been easy nor guaranteed — but rural Indians see this as a risk that they are willing to take. Tuition fees, even in “affordable” Canada, are thrice the amount for international students. Things become costlier when conversion rates turn unfavourable to Indian students.
Many rural Indians are not even applying for full degrees, but short courses in Canada and Australia. They are driven by bleak job prospects in their home country and higher wages abroad. Sachin, for example, says that his two friends in Canada now rake in about 1,200 Canadian dollars a month solely through part-time jobs.
“The ease of securing permanent residency has become a big draw for Indian students rushing to Canada,” explains Rahul Oswal, founder of consultancy Wisdom Overseas, to Reuters.
Good news for visa consultants
Improved internet access in recent years enabled visa consultancy firms to reach new heights when it comes to their target markets. Rural Indians are seen as an untapped potential — the increasing cost of private education and lack of job opportunities in the public sector have forced them to mortgage their properties and take out massive loans for overseas education.
The overseas education market is estimated to reach at least US$80 billion by the year 2024 from only US$30 billion in 2021, according to a report by Red Seer. In particular, China’s zero Covid policy has only made firms target the more mobile Indian students more.