New Delhi: Kirti Pathak, an Indian studying at Kunming Medical University in China’s Yunnan province, is worried in light of the border tensions between the two Asian giants in Ladakh. And she is not alone.
“My fellow Indian students and I are a little anxious about the tensions between India and China, but we are not thinking of pulling out from the college, or not going back for the next academic session,” she told ThePrint.
Kirti is one of the hundreds of students evacuated from China, after Covid-19 outbreak was first reported in the country’s Wuhan city, earlier this year as the disease began to take on the nature of a pandemic.
Even as the threat of Covid-19 continues to stalk the world, the students find themselves facing fresh concerns amid border tensions that have led to the death of 20 Indian soldiers.
Meanwhile, education consultants suggest China’s popularity has been on the wane among fresh applicants since the tensions began in May.
With a “boycott China” campaign catching on among many Indians looking to put an economic price on the country’s transgressions, some consultants also say they will refrain from guiding students towards India’s eastern neighbour, which is an especially big draw for medical aspirants with its cheap education options.
According to Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) data, 23,000 Indian students were enrolled in various higher education institutions of China as of 2019. Among them, 21,000 were pursuing medicine, with the remaining students enrolled in engineering and language studies.
Students like Kriti, who are in the middle of courses at China’s universities, are hoping for a peaceful resolution of the border issues, worried that persistent tensions may impact their education.
She said she was not thinking about pulling out “mainly because there is no option for students like me”.
“I am in the fourth year of my course and, if I drop out now, I will have to start the course again from first year and I will waste important years of my life,” Kriti added. “Other students and I have been keeping in touch with our university authorities and they have been assuring us that they will take care of our academic interests.”
Aakanksha, a student of the same university who only goes by her first name, agreed. “Not going back to college is not an option for us, but we are definitely in touch with our college authorities and they have assured us that something will definitely be done in case things take a turn for the worse.”
A third student, who spoke to ThePrint on the condition of anonymity, said the tensions had come as a fresh shock for them just as they were getting ready to head back to their colleges.
“After facing hardships early this year (on account of Covid-19), my other classmates and I were hoping to return to China by September as the situation is a lot better there as compared to India, but now there is a new problem,” the student added. “We are all hoping that the border tensions subside or else our future will be at stake.”
Dip in queries about new admissions in Chinese universities
While the students who are in the middle of studies across the border are at sea, those looking to gain admissions are inclined towards other Asian countries, education consultants told ThePrint.
The situation at Galwan Valley in Eastern Ladakh, education consultants suggested, has been accompanied by a dip in queries about Chinese universities from students seeking admission. Some consultants said they had taken a conscious decision to not promote China as an education destination this year.
“This year, we are trying to not promote China as a destination from our end. If students still want to go, we will help them with the counselling,” said Neeraj Chaurasiya, a consultant with Delhi-based MBBS Gurukul.
A representative from Collegify, a counselling platform that helps students with international study options, added, “This year, for the last two-three months, the number of queries for Chinese universities has come down drastically, almost down to nil. With the ongoing tensions between India and China, the trend is likely to continue. Indian students do not seem to be interested in going to China, they are instead inquiring for other Asian destinations like Singapore and Hong Kong.”
Amit Kasana, who specifically deals with MBBS counselling, said it might be too early to establish whether the border tensions are reflecting in a fall in China’s popularity among students.
“Most Indian students go to China for studying medicine. Hence, until the time NEET is not conducted, we will not be able to judge properly whether students are shunning China,” he added. “However, according to the early feedback that I have received from aspirants, they want to look for options other than China and we also want to promote other options in Asia.”
The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), India’s one-stop exam for medical admissions, also serves as the basis for admissions in medical colleges abroad. This year, NEET, usually held in May, has been postponed until July on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.