Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
Shape the future of international education at the ICEF Monitor Summit September 23rd 2024, InterContinental London - The O2
6th Nov 2019

More than 750,000 Indian students abroad in 2018

It is no secret that China has been the engine of growth in global student mobility for the better part of two decades now. But that rapid growth has slowed in recent years due to a combination of demographic trends and increasing higher education capacity at home. In fact, somewhere around 2014 India began to outpace China in terms of year-over-year growth. Over the past five years India has become not only the world’s second-largest sending market – after only China – but also one of the fastest-growing sources of outbound students.

Newly released data from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs reveals that there were nearly 753,000 Indian students abroad as of July 2018. Recognising that there is likely some rounding in the numbers reported by Indian diplomatic posts, those statistics reveal that roughly three in four (72%) go to five leading destinations: the United States (211,703 as of July 2018), Canada (124,000), Australia (87,115), Saudi Arabia (70,800), and the United Arab Emirates (50,000).

In a presentation this week at ICEF Berlin, Soni Khanna, principal consultant with TC Global (formerly The Chopras Group) explained that those very impressive outbound figures derive from even more staggering totals. There are an estimated 88.5 million senior secondary students in India today (that is, those aged 14-to-18 years old) and nearly 35 million in higher education.

Going forward, post-secondary enrolments are expected to continue to climb steadily, and the government is investing heavily in the sector this year with new budget allocations, and a three-fold increase in targeted funding to boost select Indian institutions within global ranking schemes.

Even with recent and planned expansions, competition to enter quality universities and institutes in India remains fierce. To illustrate, Ms Khanna told the story of her daughter, who graduated secondary school with a 97% average but still struggled to find a place in the university of her choice. “Because of the huge population,” she explained, “the competition is very high. But if she would have applied in a foreign university, I’m sure she would have easily got admission to one of the best colleges – but in India that is the level of competition. Every year, in June, you hear these stories that the admission is closed at 98% or 99%. And where are [all other] students going to go?”

As this anecdote suggests, there are many highly qualified secondary graduates in India that will not find a place in a quality university at home. TC Global breaks the resulting demand for study abroad down into two prospect groups: “value maximisers” and “experience seekers”.

The first group – value maximisers – are students from middle class families that will most often need to finance their programmes abroad with scholarships or other financial aid, or through educational loans from commercial banks in India. These education loans function similarly to student loan programmes in many other countries in that they carry relatively low interest rates and typically do not require repayment until some interval after the student has graduated and had an opportunity to secure employment.

These loan arrangements explain in large part the very keen interest that Indian students and parents have in work opportunities for students during their studies abroad, as well as options for students to stay and work after graduation. And this accounts as well for the popularity of leading destinations for Indian outbound, such as Canada and Australia, where there is a strong employment offer for visiting students.

The second group of prospective students – the experience seekers – are those from upper middle class families, and with the means to more readily self-fund their programmes abroad. This cohort is more open to fields of study outside of the STEM and business disciplines that remain the core areas of demand for Indian students otherwise. And they are equally open to relatively new destinations, including Germany for engineering studies, Ireland for technology programmes, and other destinations in Europe (notably Italy and France) and Asia (such as Japan and Korea).

The overall outlook then is for the continued strength and growth for Indian outbound. In particular, “the number of undergraduate students going abroad is increasing every year,” says Ms Khanna. “When I started my career, it was 15% undergraduate, 85% post-graduate market. But now it is much higher than that. Many students are going abroad straight after [secondary school], which shows that there is money, there is demand, and there is the market available.”

When it comes to approaching the market, Ms Khanna recommends establishing local offices and partners to support Indian students, but also that recruiting institutions plan additional and ongoing marketing initiatives to build their profile with Indian students and families. “Just going and attending a fair once a year is not going to engage them throughout the year,” she adds. “You have to keep doing your online activities, seminars, workshops, and make sure you are doing things consistently to show your commitment to the Indian market.”

For additional background, please see:

Most Recent

  • Market snapshot: International student recruitment in China today Read More
  • Canada’s language training sector reached 82% of pre-pandemic benchmark in 2023 Read More
  • US ELT providers flag visa denials as key area of concern Read More

Most Popular

  • Comparing student visa proof of funds requirements across 20 study destinations Read More
  • Canada: More provincial cap numbers announced; IRCC moves up end date for post-graduate work for partnership programmes Read More
  • Lessons from Denmark: The downside of limiting international student flows Read More

Because you found this article interesting

Market snapshot: International student recruitment in China today The volume of Chinese students choosing to study abroad is rising and may even return to pre-pandemic levels...
Read more
Canada’s language training sector reached 82% of pre-pandemic benchmark in 2023 Canada’s language training sector continued its recovery from the pandemic in 2023. A new annual report from Languages...
Read more
US ELT providers flag visa denials as key area of concern The just-released 2024 Annual Report on English Language Programs in the USA expands on survey findings released earlier...
Read more
Canada’s immigration ministry proposes new compliance regime for institutions and schools Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has proposed a series of regulatory changes to the country’s international student...
Read more
What is the right balance of international enrolment in post-secondary education? In January 2024, Canada announced a two-year cap on international enrolments. That cap was mandated by the federal...
Read more
UK ELT providers report restricting enrolment because of bed shortages A new report from English UK draws on survey responses from 91 member centres to conclude that many...
Read more
Student weeks for Malta’s ELT sector surpassed pre-pandemic levels in 2023 The latest data for Malta’s English Language Teaching (ELT) sector finds that total student weeks for 2023 increased...
Read more
International students contributed $31 billion to Canadian economy in 2022 An updated analysis from Global Affairs Canada (GAC) estimates that the combined direct and indirect GDP contribution of...
Read more
What are you looking for?
Quick Links