4 key considerations in redressing the imbalance of student enrolments in India's HE

Posted by Guy Perring

There was much discussion at the recent World Education Summit 2019 in Delhi around the draft National Education Policy (NEP); I just wanted to focus on one small, but vital section – (12.4) which relates to the internationalisation of higher education.

It starts by rightly pointing out that India has a long and distinguished history of welcoming international students. One of the earliest universities in Nalanda welcomed students from China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea and other parts of the world from 700BC. This stands in stark contrast to today’s situation where a mere 11,500 overseas students per year choose India as a destination, whereas over 750,000 Indian students choose to study overseas.

Acknowledging the key drivers for international students

There are clearly some key factors that India needs to tackle if it is to go some way in redressing this imbalance. Our research at i-graduate indicates that the key drivers for international students are the following:

  • The quality of the learning expereince
  • The relevance of the learning to a future career
  • The ability to work while studying
  • The ability to work after studying

There are of course other factors such as affordability of both course fees and living, as well as the ease of obtaining a student visa. But the reality is that students travel overseas to build an enhance their future careers, and institutions need to ensure they satisfy this wish so students will recommend their institution to others in their global network.

The importance of industry and community integration (and learning from other countries)

In the draft NEP there is some emphasis on developing specific areas related to Indian language and culture. The reality is that these areas will remain relatively niche and the real attraction for larger numbers of international students will be in STEM subjects, computer science and gaming, drawing on perceptions of Indian expertise and links to industry.

Industry needs to be persuaded of the value of welcoming international students to their workforce and the insights and perspectives they can bring. This has been an ongoing struggle in all countries that welcome international students and institutions and government must ensure that they challenge both companies, and indeed communities, to encourage wider integration of all international students.

Developing branch campuses through international partnerships

Further measures to attract international students and internationalise the system include the development of branch campuses and twinning programmes. In Malaysia and Dubai, this has led to the development of education hubs with multiple branch campuses that draw in international students gaining UK or Australian degrees at a fraction of the cost.

The draft education policy mentions that only those in the ranking of top 200 will be invited/allowed to open a campus. I took a look at the rankings and a quick glance at those outside the top 200 include institutions such as Waseda (Japan), Texas A&M (USA), Royal Holloway (UK) and Curtin (Aus). I have little doubt that they could contribute valuably to the Indian higher education ecosystem and I would recommend governments to look at branch campuses on a case-by-case approach rather than the rankings.

Benchmarking the student experience against the leading institutions

It is great to see a lot of attention paid to the student experience in the draft and the noting of concerns that the infrastructure at the state and central institutions should match the level of the private institutions where currently the majority of international students study.

I would argue that Indian institutions need to benchmark their own performance both locally and then internationally. Students are now more informed than in any time in history and will rely heavily on their peer networks who will report in real-time on their experience, good or bad. Student recommendations will increasingly become the key driver to Indian institutions. You have to get the experience right and a key way of assessing how you are doing is comparisons with your peers inside India as well as making an appropriate global comparison.

We are currently inviting a select group of Indian private higher education institutions to participate in the first international student benchmarking exercise. The Student Barometer is the largest international student survey of its kind used by the world’s leading institutions as the definitive measure of the student experience across all their students, locations, levels and years of study. To participate in this exclusive i-graduate’s Student Barometer India Pilot Scheme, please register your interest by 30th September 2019.


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