Degree of benefits: Why government is pushing hard for its 'Study in India' initiative
Through Study in India, the govt wants to expand country’s soft power overseas. It's also a source of forex.
"I have many friends, both among Indians and international students. Now my course is coming to an end and I will soon have to go back to Tororo, my hometown in Uganda. The thought of leaving this city makes me sad," he says.
The growth of Pune into an information technology hub and the presence of many thriving traditional business houses attract many foreign students such as Omegere to Pune as they can study and find internship opportunities here. But visa rules do not permit them to seek employment in India after their education.
Symbiosis International, set up over four decades back with the main goal of attracting overseas students, now hosts over 2,000 foreign students from over 80 countries," says Anita Patankar, deputy director of Symbiosis Centre for International Education. Some of the most popular courses for foreigners are IT, computers, nursing, hospital management, medical technology and bachelor of business administration, she adds.
"All our programmes attract foreign students looking for a cosmopolitan campus and world-class courses. Also because Pune is considered a safe city for foreigners."
No doubt the Indian government chose Pune as a hub for its Study in India programme. The initiative was launched in April last year by the ministry of human resource development and ministry of external affairs to attract more international students. It has created a portal that links more than 160 higher education institutions in the country, both private and government, with international students. The institutes include all Indian Institutes of Technology and National Institutes of Technology, Marwadi University in Rajkot and KIIT in Bhubaneswar. Over 25,000 seats at undergrad, masters and PhD levels have been kept aside for overseas students.
The Study in India website says more than 1,500 courses are on offer. Some even offer scholarships.
"India has the advantage of education being delivered in English as well as a big competitive advantage in terms of cost, along with world-class colleges and universities," says Diptiman Das, chairman & MD of EdCIL India, the public sector undertaking that is the nodal agency to implement Study in India.
"Yet we have a tiny percentage of foreign students compared with the total number of Indian students in our universities. For Indian institutions, getting more diversity on campus will help them improve global rankings in a significant way." Along with the study in India portal, which provides centralised information for international students, an international call centre has been launched to guide students through the admission and onboarding process.
The government has also launched social media campaigns across 30 target countries. Over 2,500 students have already signed up for the counselling services on the portal.
"For the target countries, we are working with the shortlisted institutions to offer more scholarships and fee waivers. While the ministry of commerce has identified education services as having the potential to attract foreign exchange, we are currently looking at international students as a source of extending India's soft power overseas and becoming brand ambassadors for our country in their home counties.
Forex, we hope, will flow in later through the multiplier effect," adds Das. According to the Reserve Bank of India, spending on tuition and hostel fees by Indian students studying abroad was $2.8 billion in 2017-18. In comparison, foreign students in India spent only $479 million in the corresponding period.
To make the passage to India smooth for students, EdCIL is easing student visa issues and streamlining procedures at foreigners' regional registration office. The government wants to implement a common entrance examination in the long term.
"At some hubs of international students, we are planning to set up hostels in tie-ups with colleges and universities. We are asking all institutions registered with us to work towards providing international cuisine for these students," Das says.
Food is the least of the worry for Pratyush Nepal, 19, from Kathmandu. He signed up for an engineering course at SSN College of Engineering in Chennai through the Study in India portal last November.
"I hang out with Indian students in the hostel and feel at home here because of the cultural similarities. However, the weather in Chennai is very hot. That is a challenge for someone from Kathmandu," says Pratyush. SSN College has 65 students from Nepal, Sri Lanka, the UK, the US, Bhutan and Indonesia. It charges overseas students Rs 2.75- 3 lakh annually, while Indian students pay around Rs 2.5 lakh.