Indian students going abroad for higher studies, especially in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and management domains is not  a new phenomenon. According to the Ministry of External Affairs, there has been a 73 percent increase in Indian students going abroad i.e., from 3,71,506 students in 2016 to 6,46,206 students till November 2022. India has been trying to work on a framework  that could serve as a gateway to facilitate  foreign students for higher education in the country. At the same time, India is also trying to open doors for Indian students and academics to get international exposure.

The recent policies/regulations on internationalization are changing the dynamics of the education ecosystem:

  • IFSCA (International Financial Services Centres Authority) GIFT City (Gujarat International Financial Tech) has allowed top foreign universities with QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) 500 ranking to set up offline centres in GIFT City, Gujarat in selected subjects. 
  • University Grant Commission (UGC) Regulation is offering Twinning, Joint, and Dual Degree Programmes through collaboration between Indian universities and Foreign universities. 
  • Upcoming regulations by UGC (Setting up and Operation of Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India) Draft Regulations, 2023 (ongoing public consultation), will allow foreign universities to have physical campuses in India- with the freedom to devise their admission process and fee structure.
  • National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 stipulates various measures, which include facilitating research/teaching collaborations and faculty/student exchange with high-quality foreign higher educational institutions (HEI) and signing of relevant mutually beneficial MOUs with foreign countries; setting up of an International Student Office at each HEI for welcoming and supporting students arriving from abroad.
  • Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration invites talented foreign academics to improve the competitiveness of the Indian Education system.
  • Global Initiative of Academic Networks aims to increase the footfall of reputed international faculty in the Indian academic institutes, and further invite international academic excellence into India’s higher education institutions.
  • Leadership for Academicians Programme facilitates partnerships with foreign universities to provide training for Indian academics. 

A few interesting facts about this education sector are:

  • Market Size: India is the second most populated country and has the world’s largest population, in the age cohort 5-24 years amounting to 580 million people.  The education sector in India is estimated to reach $ 225 billion by FY 2025 from $ 117 billion in FY 2020. The online education segment in India is also growing rapidly, with a CAGR of 20 percent. 
  • Government Impetus: India’s public expenditure in the education sector has been 3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the government aims to increase it to 6 percent as early as possible. 
  • Private Sector Participation in Education: According to the All-India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2019-20 more than 70 percent of the colleges in India are managed by private players. 

India will have the largest number of people of college-going age by the next decade. Currently, there are 1113 universities in India with a 27.3 per cent Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER). One of the key targets of National Education Policy 2020 is to raise GER to 50 percent by 2035 which means India will require an additional 900 universities to meet this target. India’s Education sector also requires a greater inflow of finance to attract talented teachers, innovation, and better infrastructures. Foreign direct investments (FDI) and opening External Commercial Borrowing (ECB) could be the routes to overcome these challenges.

In 2022, nearly 1.3 million Indian students were studying in the USA, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Germany which has around 206 universities out of 500 QS Universities. There is a high probability that if India allows setting up physical campuses, a lot of these institutions would want to tap the huge Indian market. The government inviting foreign institutes to set up campuses in India will retain Indian talent and promote economic growth in the country. 

From being home to the world’s first university, Nalanda University to having 1100+ universities, India has come a long way. In the next two decades, India’s focus will on strengthening the education infrastructure and introducing more favourable regulations that could transform India into one of the world's most preferred destinations for higher education. 


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