Samwel Odhiambo, feels like he fits in right here in Mumbai. The Kenyan student, now in this third year studying BSc IT at Patkar College in Goregaon left Nairobi after his schooling to pursue higher education in India. "It is five or six times more expensive in Kenya," he said. "I also wanted a new experience, so I came here."
Mumbai University has more than 100 foreign students on its rolls this year, mainly from African and Asian countries including Afghanistan, Ghana, Laos, Myanmar and Ethiopia. In 2008-09, the University had exactly 80.
Foreign students make up a very small proportion of those studying in India, however, despite little or no recruitment efforts and complicated admission procedures, their numbers have been slowly growing.
The Open Doors report released by the Institute of International Education with a US state department last Monday showed that India jumped three spots from the number 14 most popular international destinations for American students to number 11. The numbers grew 12% from 2009-10 to 2010-11 (data for 2011-12 will be released next year).
Similarly, data from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which conducts the GMAT shows that scores sent to management programmes in India from non-Indian citizens, has increased by 17% for the testing year 2011 and 51% over 5 years.
"Over the past 5 years, there has been a substantial growth in interest from candidates based overseas in pursuing management education in India, albeit from a small base," said Ashish Bhardwaj, vice-president, Asia Pacific at GMAC, via email. "As an ecosystem, business schools in India have made limited efforts in attracting these students though the regulatory framework for admitting students exists. The top 50 business schools in India are well known overseas due to a successful internationally dispersed alumni body."
Mumbai University has separate hostel facilities for outstation students, and last year made a rule that 15% of seats in colleges be set aside for foreign students to help broaden the university's international scope.
"Foreign students at Mumbai University will keep rising because education is becoming more internationalised," said Mrudul Nile, advisor to foreign students at the University. "And now our university has also introduced the credit system."
There are 3,550 students studying in India on scholarships, according to the International Council of Cultural Research website. One of the parameters India scores poorly on is that there are barely any international students on its campuses compared to other universities in the world.
Culture, language and cost are concerns for international students in the city. But there are other benefits. "Degrees from India will hold value in our country," said Haji Abdinoor, 21, a Kenyan second year student pursuing a Bcom in banking and insurance.