Indian students keen to study abroad are being courted aggressively by countries such as France, Germany, Australia and Canada. The bait: lower fees than the US, an easier visa regime than UK's and more scholarships and work opportunities than either.
Traditionally, the US - with more than one lakh Indian students - and the UK have been top destinations for Indian students. But new visa rules in the UK from this year have seen a 30% drop in student visa applications.Under the new rules, students cannot automatically stay back and work for a year after graduating from a British university and are discouraged from pursuing a second masters' degree in the country.
"There's a new battle on for Indian students," said Rakesh Sinha, director, Study Global, which advises students on foreign study options.
There are around two lakh Indian students abroad. They constitute the world's second-largest market of international students after the Chinese.
In developed countries, earnings from foreign students typically contribute over 2% to the GDP.
The economic downturn of the past few years has sharpened the battle for this market, with fewer students willing to take hefty loans to pay tuition fees.
"Consultants like us are seeing more aggressive marketing by these countries for Indian students than ever before," said Sinha.
France, which has 2,000 Indian students, has formally set its targets at nearly trebling this number by 2013.
Nine Campus France offices and 27 French tutors, spread out across Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore, are on the job.
Around 265 scholarships have been granted.