India’s position as a key player in global student mobility is set to grow in the next decade, according to a recent report. Meanwhile, proposed reforms to India’s higher education sector illuminate how forecasted growth in both mobile and overall tertiary numbers will occur against a backdrop of significant new efforts to expand and internationalise India’s universities and colleges.
Postgraduate student growth
As we reported recently, a new report produced by the British Council, Postgraduate student mobility trends to 2024, suggests that India is set to become one of the fastest-growing sources of mobile postgraduate students over the next ten years.
According to Zainab Malik, author of the report and director of research for Education Intelligence in the British Council, India will account for 54% of the growth of inbound postgraduate students to the United States by 2024. While India will have the most tertiary students in the world by that year – 48 million, compared to 37 million for China – China will still be the largest overall source of outbound students, at 338,000, compared to India’s 209,000.
The report traces the key “drivers of change” that will propel outbound mobility from major markets like India in the coming decade. The chief driver will be seismic demographic shifts that will see the number of tertiary aged students grow (or shrink) across countries. The tertiary aged population in India, for example, will rise to over 119 million in 2024 (from just over 115 million in 2013), even as this same demographic group will see significant declines in countries like China, Russia, Vietnam, Korea, and Taiwan.
Overall, India’s growth in mobile postgraduates will be driven by this rise in tertiary enrolment, but also by economic growth and expanding incomes. “For destination markets, this is likely to be the real opportunity for inbound student growth over the next decade,” the report highlights. While the largest destination country for Indian postgraduate students will continue to be the United States, Australia, Germany, the UK, and to a lesser extent Canada will also see a rise in Indian postgraduate students to 2024.
Profile of mobile Indian students
So who are these new globally mobile Indian students? A recent guest blog in University World News by Rahul Choudaha, chief knowledge officer and senior director of strategic development at World Education Services (WES), provides some insight into the changing profile of mobile Indian students.
In recent years, Dr Choudaha explains, typical Indian students choosing to study abroad were so-called ‘strivers’. This segment tended to be enrolled in masters-level programmes in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). In the US, for example, three-quarters of Indian masters students are enrolled in STEM programmes. According to Dr Choudaha, this cohort has traditionally relied on student loans or financial aid to finance their studies, which is why the impact of the 2008 global recession – and the resulting credit crunch – has kept the growth of this segment anemic.
Beginning in 2015, however, “the biggest change in the profile of Indian students aspiring to global education will be the emergence of ‘high fliers’ – those who are academically prepared and more importantly have an ability to pay for their experiences,” Dr Choudaha maintains.
He defines ‘high fliers’ as children born in the late 1990s to parents working in new age industries like IT, financial services, and telecommunications. These parents are considerably more well off than previous generations and more likely to invest in top quality education abroad for their children.
Growth in outbound mobility comes at a time when overall higher education enrolment rates are also rising rapidly in India.
A further British Council report pegs the current higher education participation rate at 18% (compared to 26% in China or 36% in Brazil) and highlights the Indian government’s goal to increase participation to 30% by 2020 – a target that would require an increase of 14 million spaces over six years. (And this on top of a reported two million new spaces created since 2009.)
In short, India is planning a massive expansion of its higher education system over the next decade.
The Hindu Business Line indicates that financial accessibility, physical accessibility, and “virtual accessibility,” or online education, will all play a key role in the availability and effectiveness of Indian higher education in the coming years. However, an expansion of the scale and pace currently imagined will no doubt come with some daunting quality control issues and with new prospects for expanded participation by the private sector and by foreign providers.
In part to address increasing demand, and to pave the wave for easier domestic mobility and deeper internationalisation, the Indian government announced a new round of proposed reforms in September. According to The Times of India, Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Smriti Irani plans a higher education overhaul set to deliver guidelines for common admission, common curriculum, student and faculty mobility, as well as a national system of credit transfers.
The Hindustan Times reports, meanwhile, that India’s HRD Ministry has also proposed the formation of a committee to develop a framework for India-specific rankings. According to Professor Bhaskar Ramamurthi, director of IIT Madras, “Indian universities (and colleges) will be ranked in comparison with peer universities/colleges. Foreign universities/colleges will be included in this. The parameters and factors will be selected based on what is relevant for bachelor’s and master’s programmes, research programmes, and for different disciplines such as sciences, engineering, medicine, law, liberal arts, [and] fine arts.”
In addition to the large numbers of Indian students now studying abroad, and a smaller number of international students choosing to study in India (mainly from Asian and African nations), a number of Indian branch campuses have been established abroad, such as the offshore campus of Manipal University in Malaysia and additional offshore centres in the Gulf region.
Despite these initiatives, he finds that few Indian universities include internationalisation in their integrated strategic planning frameworks, a situation ascribed to the fact that India does not currently have a national policy governing the entry or operation of foreign higher education institutions. Likewise, few Indian institutions have alliances with foreign universities on joint course delivery, joint research, faculty and staff mobility, or other forms of collaboration. According to Mr Mathews, institutions most active in these areas tend to be newer, private institutions – those who use such internationalisation activities as value-added activities to strengthen their market position.
For Mr Mathews, the surge in the number of Indians studying abroad and a growing number of partnerships with foreign universities have occurred not because of government policy, but due to domestic political and social changes. That the number of Indian students abroad seems poised for further, substantial growth – amidst increasing efforts on the part of the government to reform and expand Indian education – points to the likelihood that internationalisation activities of all sorts will continue to play a key role in Indian higher education in the years ahead.
For the full report, please visit the site: http://monitor.icef.com/2014/10/indias-supply-demand-gap-education-expected-drive-international-mobility/