Why India lags in international student mix at local universities

Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, and Delhi featured in the recently released QS Best Student Cities Rankings 2023, but the overall rating of India is at the bottom of the Student Mix Indicator as the ratio of international students is minimal as compared to domestic students. Mumbai is at 103 spot, scoring for affordability but struggling with desirability and student mix, while Chennai and Delhi made their entries to the list at 125 and 129 positions. The Ranking is based on a range of factors including affordability, quality of life, standard of university and views of previous students.

The Study in India (SII) programme introduced by Ministry of Education in 2018 has attracted students from neighbouring countries, but it needs to jump the geographical boundaries to endorse India as a prime education hub for international students by inviting them to pursue their higher education in India. According to the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2018-19, the number of international students enrolled in Indian universities was just 47,427. India seeks to attract 200,000 international students, more than four times the current total, by the end of 2023


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Diversity in
courses offered

Lingaraja Gandhi, vice-chancellor, Bengaluru City University, says NEP 2020 has suggested changes in courses and curriculum which will increase the value of Indian universities globally. “Numerous central, public and private universities that offer a mix of specialised and general degrees, with emphasis on skill-based learning will attract international students, who will get to pick and choose. The NEP curriculum also integrates knowledge, skills, and values through an experiential learning model that will attract foreign students,” he says.

The efforts to attract foreign students have been unorganised so far, says Balaram Pani, dean of colleges, University of Delhi (DU). “The first step would be to figure out popular areas of study for students from different regions and introduce suitable courses. Next, educational institutes need to organise counselling sessions and advertise the courses to spread the word about the availability of desired courses,” he says.

University of Mumbai (MU) attracts foreign students for courses in Humanities, Commerce and Management. MU has recently established three institutes that will further attract international students, including the School of International Relations and Strategic Studies, Centre for Excellence in Maritime Studies and Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar International Research Centre, says Rajesh Kharat, dean (Humanities), MU. “Providing the flexibility to opt for offline or online courses is also leading to an increase in admission queries from international students,” adds Kharat, who is also a professor of South Asian Studies, JNU, New Delhi.

Alumni collaborations will help

Collaboration happens in two ways; one is with industries and the other is with international HEIs. Gandhi says, “Industry-academia collaborations will enable international students to get more on-ground training, which is closer to their educational format. This will make them more comfortable in the Indian setting.”

An increase in collaborations with international universities will encourage foreign students to pick India as their educational destination. “The government has started easing the process to increase such collaborations,” says Pani.

Involvement of all stakeholders in spreading the word about availability of quality education in Indian cities is another key step, adds Pani. “Alumni associations across the globe can be roped in to hold outreach programmes to reassure international students regarding making a choice to study in India,” he says.