New Delhi: The Covid-19 pandemic seems to have ushered in a big change in the way Indian students choose a foreign university for higher education.
They are now not just looking at the college or their desired course, but also the health infrastructure and medical facilities in the country concerned.
A number of foreign education consultants told ThePrint that students are making well-informed decisions while choosing a foreign university, with some skipping going to bigger nations like the US and Canada and opting for European nations and countries like Singapore and New Zealand, considering the size of the population and the way they managed the pandemic.
“During our interaction with students, we realised that the country’s leadership has become a vital ground for applicants to finalise their decision. Prospective international students will surely look at how countries reacted to Covid-19 when deciding where to apply,” said Akshay Chaturvedi, founder, and CEO, Leverage Edu, an education counselling platform for students.
He added that in the current times, students prefer going to the UK because of the immigration policies and the healthcare infrastructure.
Krithika Srinivasan, co-founder of The CareerLabs, a consulting platform founded by ex-BYJU’s leadership, also said they helped students look at colleges from the “Covid angle”, which means looking at the preparedness of the university, the way the country they are opting for handled the pandemic and if it’s alright to pursue the course they are interested in, in a hybrid mode.
She said some students were skipping countries like the US and opting for smaller European nations instead.
“We use a number of parameters when we assist students in looking for a course/college of their choice. Because of Covid, we added that parameter as well and wanted students to make informed choices,” said Srinivasan.
She added students have altered their choices based on Covid in many ways. For example, students who opted for courses that had practical components like engineering decided to defer their course when their university asked them to start the class remotely.
More students went for courses like business studies during the pandemic as it requires less practical components and can be done remotely and in a hybrid mode.
“When the pandemic struck last year, people thought it is a temporary thing and will be over in a matter of six months. But with the recurrent waves all over the world, people know that it is a more permanent kind of situation and they are altering their study choices accordingly,” Srinivasan added.
‘Anyone who has affordability will leave India’
Some counsellors also said that more students are now looking for options to work abroad instead of simply getting a degree from a foreign university and use it back home in India.
“Students’ sentiment towards higher education abroad has been pretty strong from the very beginning of the pandemic. They want to choose countries where their talent will be celebrated and as a result will open doors for them in terms of employment,” said Chaturvedi from Leverage Edu.
He added more than 80 per cent of the university admission registered by students on their platform are currently looking at PG programmes, of which 10 per cent are PG research programmes.
Adarsh Khandelwal, co-founder, Collegify, an education consultancy, also said students are looking for options to study and work abroad.
“(Joe) Biden’s victory has developed comfort for immigrants. Current situation in India is awful… We are falling into a depression period — no jobs, no college, no clarity… hence anyone who has affordability will leave India,” he said.
Focusing on universities in the US, which gets the largest share of Indian students, Sumeet Jain, co-founder and Higher Education Expert at Yocket, a study-abroad consultancy, said the fact that universities abroad have been preparing to deal with the pandemic has helped them.
“Most of the large US universities have good medical infrastructure. They have in-house facilities. Many of them also have a medical school and state-of-art infra universities have been preparing for bettering the infra since last year,” he said.
Jain also added that many universities are even offering free vaccines to international students and that has become an important factor for students in deciding their options.
“Healthcare is more developed and advanced in the US, though expensive. But with the insurance it becomes affordable. And all universities offer insurance at some cost. This is one of the least concerns for students as they can be assured of good health infra there. And with free vaccinations by many universities, it is in fact a good motivation,” Jain added.
‘It’s best to get out of India at this point’
Some students ThePrint spoke to also said that their priorities have changed post Covid-19.
Sameer Sridharan, who will join a B-school in Canada in September this year, said, “I have already received an email from my university informing that they would welcome students in-person for the batch starting September.
“I really hope that there are no travel restrictions and I get to go. I am happy with my choice because Canada has good health infrastructure and they give insurance to students. Post-Covid, they have also included Covid-related illness in the insurance cover, so I feel I will be better taken care of over there.”
Sridharan added he wants to get his vaccine in Canada and not in India.
Priya Gupta, who will join a public policy course in a US-based university this year, also said she would feel safer outside India.
“The US has a lot more Covid cases as compared to India, but they are still managing the situation far better. I feel it’s best to get out of India at this point in time,” she said.
With many universities giving out vaccines, students are more hopeful of attending manual classes.
Gupta said even if her university decides to teach one semester in remote mode, she will still go for the course in the hope that the next semester could be manual.
(Edited by Debalina Dey)