As per the latest figures available, the United Kingdom has replaced the United States as the most favoured destination of Indian students going abroad for studies. For the year 2010 (academic session 2010-11) 57,500 fresh student visas for the UK have been issued. “It’s almost 73 per cent more than the visas issued in 2009,” says Amit Chaturvedi, head education, UK (north India). The 2009 figure was 31,500. “I think it is the interest shown by Indian students in the one-year Master’s programme that engineered the spurt in numbers, says Chaturvedi.
On the other hand, last year (Fall 2009 to January 2010), 26890 Indian students were issued F-1 visas to study in the US. This is a 20 per cent drop from the year 2008 (Fall 2008 to January 2009), when 36,140 students were issued visas. “The wobbly economy of the US may be a reason behind the drop in numbers,” says Renuka Raja Rao, country coordinator, educational advising services, United States-India Educational foundation. “The visa season for the students going to the US in the Fall of 2010 is still going on and the numbers will only be available later this year,” she says. However, this year, as of now, there has been a renewed interest among the Indian students, she said.
According to Koteshwar Prasad Dhobal, director PR, Assocham, “The US is the lead destination for students going for management studies and the UK is the preferred destination for students studying medicine and finance.” Chaturvedi has a different take. “The most popular programme is the one-year MBA. It’s the crowd puller. About 12 to 14 per cent of all the students going to the UK study the one-year MBA; followed by engineering programmes (6 to 8 per cent) and subjects like fashion, law, design, bio-technology, all of which account for 20 per cent of the total number.”
“Engineering, business and liberal arts programme continue to be the most popular of all programmes in the US,” says Rao, adding, “environmental studies, pharmaceutical science, inter-disciplinary programmes and physiotherapy are also favoured.”
The popular sentiment, however, is that the US is still the most preferred destination for Indian students and this view is corroborated by the fact that at any given point of time there would be more Indian students in the US campuses than in any other country. “In 2009 there were 1,03,260 Indian students in various US campuses,” says Rao. The reason for this is that students going to study in the US stay for a longer duration – either for four-year graduation, two-year post graduation or for PhDs, which take five to six years to complete, points out Rao.
Even private education and immigration consultants put the US ahead of the UK. “Earlier students from India preferred going to the USA, Australia, the UK, Canada and New Zealand. But with recent developments in rules and regulations in various countries the trend has changed, It’s the US, the UK, Germany, New Zealand and Canada now,” says Maninder Singh Nayyar, of Time Educational And Immigration Consultants, a Delhi based agency sending students abroad.
According to Nayyar, Australia has lost its reputation with Indian students as a safe destination, whereas European countries are now opening their doors to Indian Students.
Agrees Sanjay Kaushik, MD Revata International, a consulting firm for students going abroad . “There has been a significant drop in the number of students going to Australia. It’s difficult to predict the percentage, but it’s significant,” he says. Australia, it might be recalled, attracted a large number of students opting for vocational studies.
Dobhal of Assocham, however, doesn’t agree. “Stud-ents are still interested in Australia because the cost of education is less there. Moreover, both the Australian and Indian governments have said that Australia would give Indian students state protection. This has impacted the country’s prospects among Indian students positively.” According to him, out of around 1 lakh Indian students who have gone abroad to study in the current academic year, 30,000 have gone to Australia.
The majority of the Indian students going abroad favour contemporary courses such as “computer science, computer engineering, electrical, mechanical, and electronics engineering, communications and bio-technology,” says Kaushik.