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21% fewer Indian students went abroad last year as US figures saw biggest drop

Education experts attribute fall in US figures to the Donald Trump administration’s increasingly harsher policies for post-study work visa.

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New Delhi: The number of Indian students going abroad for higher studies fell by over 1.6 lakh in 2018-19 from a year ago, primarily on a decline in the tally of students going to the US, the Ministry of Human Resource Development told Parliament in a written reply Monday.

According to government data, 6,20,156 students went abroad in the last academic year, compared to 7,86,576 students in 2017-18 — a fall of 21 per cent. These numbers exclude the UK data.

The decline came on the back of lower number of students visiting the US for higher studies — from 4,47,836 in 2017-18 to 2,09,063 in 2018-19.

Corresponding figures for most other popular destination for Indian students have shown an increase.

Graphic: Soham Sen/ThePrint
Graphic: Soham Sen/ThePrint

The Indian government’s data for Indian students in the US, however, is in sharp contrast with the numbers released by the US authorities.

In the Open Doors report on international students released last week, the US Department of State said the number of Indian students in the US increased by 2.9 per cent from 1,96,271 in 2017-18 to 2,02,014 last year.

It also highlighted that the number of students going to the US for graduation is on the rise, while there has been a fall in the number of post-graduation students. The Indian government, however, hasn’t shared level-wise data.

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The US visa issue

Education consultants and experts attributed the fall in the US figures to the Donald Trump administration’s increasingly harsher policies for post-study work visa.

“The number of students going abroad for studies has constantly been increasing. It’s just the country that keeps changing and the government policy in a country definitely contributes to this. With US, students are seeing that many are coming back without a job and hence the interest has gone down,” explained Mrinal Singh, an education consultant.

“We are receiving more inquiries for countries like Ireland, which permit post study work,” she added.

Another consultant, who didn’t wish to be named, said, “More students want to go for countries that are providing them post-study work opportunities and that is clearly not happening with the US government’s current policies.”

No problem with other countries

The US is the only destination where fewer Indian students have gone. For other popular international destinations like Australia, Russia, Canada, Malaysia, the UK and China, the numbers have only grown.

The number of Indian students in Australia for higher studies went 93,832 in 2017-18 to 1,23,851 last year. Canada also saw 1,72,600 Indian students in 2018-19, up from 1,67,060 from a year ago.

The UK gave admission to over 19,000 Indian students in 2017-18 — the corresponding figure for 2018-19 has not yet been made available. However, trends from 2015-16 onwards shows the UK figures rising constantly.

Nearly 23,000 Indian students are currently enrolled in various Chinese universities. Out of these, 21,000 are studying medicine.

Other popular destinations such as Malaysia and Ukraine saw a rise too. The latter had 14,000 Indian students in 2018-19, compared to 8,000 four years ago.

Problems faced by Indian students

In its reply to Parliament, the HRD ministry also said Indian students studying abroad face problems like harassment by education consultants, sudden increase in fee and sudden closure of institutions.

“Various steps have been taken by the Ministry of External Affairs and our Missions/Posts abroad to address the problems faced by the Indian students abroad,” the ministry said.

It informed that a government-appointed expert group is in touch with embassies and high commissions of US, UK, Canada, Russia, China, Australia and other countries to address the students’ concerns.

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