New Delhi: Short-term courses in yoga, Buddhism and ayurveda will form the pivot of a new government push to attract more foreign students, including from developed nations like the US and the UK, to India.
The initiative, called ‘Destination India’, will seek to streamline the process of foreign admissions in a bid to project the country as a hub of education, ThePrint has learnt.
‘Destination India’ will involve cooperation from multiple government bodies, including the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), which spearheads India’s cultural global outreach, and the ministries of human resource development [HRD], health, external affairs, and home affairs, multiple sources in ICCR said.
Together, they will put together a roadmap to take the number of foreign students in India to 2 lakh by 2022.
The roadmap, the ICCR sources said, will include making visa procedures simpler, sprucing up facilities in host institutions, marketing Indian universities in target countries, and signing international agreements with institutions and universities abroad.
It was the same aim that drove the HRD Ministry to launch ‘Study India’ in 2018, under which it introduced short-term courses on Buddhism, yoga and ayurveda for foreign students.
“We are focusing more on Indian courses like yoga, ayurveda and Buddhism through ‘Study in India’ because that is a way we can get students from developed nations to join our institutions,” said a senior HRD Ministry official.
‘Destination India’ seeks to recreate this on a larger canvas, with the involvement of multiple agencies.
Some of the other factors that will be looked at under the programme include employability, ease of logistics such as food and cultural activities, availability of financial aid, and ease of cultural and social assimilation.
No clear picture
The fact that the Modi government is looking to institute order in the foreign admissions process was evident in the Union Budget, when Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a GRE-like exam for foreign students.
The process, say experts, is currently riddled with some problems, including the absence of any clear assessment about the number of students in India.
According to the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) under the Bureau of Immigration, 3.47 lakh students arrived in India on student visas between 2018 and 2019 in Delhi alone. Meanwhile, Human Resource Development Ministry data suggests the number of international students all over India in 2018-19 and 2019-20 was nearly 47,000 each.
“Our estimates are that more than 1.5 lakh international students come to India every year, but all those numbers are not documented properly,” said an ICCR official.
“There is a mismatch in the number of international students that various agencies maintain, which is why we are trying to work on a more streamlined process for international student admissions,” the official added. “Some students come on tourist visas and enrol in short-term courses, we want to document them as well.”
From 2009-2016, according to ICCR estimates, the number of foreign students in India grew at a rate of 12 per cent per annum, similar to China’s.
Of the total number of foreign students in India, the data suggests, 63 per cent are from 10 countries, led by Nepal (21 per cent) and Afghanistan (10 per cent). Students from Africa, Sudan and Nigeria account for another five per cent each.
An informed source in the ICCR said many students also came from developed nations like the US, the UK, Canada and some European countries. “These students typically come for short-term courses like yoga, Sanskrit and Indian languages on tourist visa, which is why it is difficult to document them,” the source added.
(With inputs by Ananya Bhardwaj)