September 2015 issue

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Part of

India’s spice

Despite India having the largest higher education system in the world, Indian students are still motivated to study abroad. Nicola Hancox finds out why.

Key points

The total number of students placed by the seven agencies in our survey was 2,120

Individual agencies placed between 10 and 800 students on courses per year

Average business growth was 41 per cent in the last 12 months

Overall, 61 per cent of Indian students preferred staying in a private apartment when studying overseas

The largest percentage of Indian students (48 per cent) were studying abroad for further studies overseas

Higher education is the largest sector of the study travel market in India (83 per cent)

Most popular course requests Average percentage of agency business by sector

Postgraduate 58%
Undergraduate 24%
University foundation 8%
Language plus work 4%
Academic/exam prep 2%
Other 4%

Higher education 83.5%
Language programmes 7%
Internships 6%
Work & Travel 2.5%
Secondary school 1%

Reasons for studying overseas Top destinations

Further studies overseas 48%
Future work 32%
Current work 12%
Studies at home 4%
Other 4%

Australia 35%
USA 17%
Canada 16%
New Zealand 9%
Germany 5%
UK 5%
France 3%
Ireland 3%
Italy 3%
Singapore 3%
Spain 1%

How do agencies recruit students? How do agencies find new schools to represent?

Word-of-mouth 43%
E/Online marketing 15%
Seminars to students 14%
Website 8%
Advertising in press 7%
Mail shots 7%
Advertising on TV/radio 2%
Other 4%

B2B conferences 49%
Internet 35%
Student fairs and expos 4%
Other press 4%
ST Magazine 1%
Other 7%

Market growth
The Indian government has plans to reform its higher education system and create an additional 14 million university places by 2020. “This will require a transformational change at a pace and scale never seen before,” details a 2014 British Council report entitled Understanding India: The future of higher education and opportunities for international cooperation. “As India currently has 26 million students enrolled in tertiary education, by illustration, it would need another 800 universities and over 40,000 colleges in the next eight years to provide the planned additional 14 million places.” The report goes on to suggest the various ways in which this ambitious plan could be realised (more bilateral institutional collaborations between the UK and Indian HE sectors for example). However, outdated curricular, staff shortages and low teaching standards are other hurdles its internal HE sector struggles with. “There are only a few quality higher education institutes in India,” observes Rupesh Patel at Competitive Careers in Ahmedabad, and there is huge demand for excellent provision. Ashish Sachde from Institute of Foreign Studies in Mumbai notes that higher education in India has become expensive. “There are more students than places available at good universities,” he says. These factors alone are a prime motivation for those willing and able to study abroad. Indeed, the outbound student market in India has been a buoyant one in the last 12 months. All agencies that took part in this month’s report recorded a business increase of between 18 and 100 per cent, and average business growth was a strong 41 per cent, compared with 22 per cent previously (see STM, February 2013, page 18). “Students are interested in going abroad to new destinations that cost less than India,” relates Ashish. “Countries like Italy, Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic are attracting a big chunk of Indian students because of their lower tuition fees compared to the USA, UK and Australia,” he adds. At Sonya International Education Centre in New Delhi, the introduction of streamlined visa processing (SVP) in Australia (soon to be replaced by the Simplified Student Visa Framework); US institutes growing openness to agents; friendlier visa policy/work rights in various countries and the emergent Indian middle classes have helped boost outbound business, says Sonya Singh.

Language and destination trends
In our 2013 report, the USA was the most popular study destination for Indian students (39.5 per cent), followed by the UK (14.7), Canada (13.8), New Zealand (8.8) and Australia (5.5). However, in the last 12 months Australia has become the most frequently requested destination at participating agencies (35 per cent), followed by the USA (17 per cent) and Canada (16 per cent). The UK was requested by just five per cent of students in the last 12 months. This fall-out could be a delayed response to restrictions made to post-study work rights in 2012 by the UK government. Most clients requested English-taught programmes (59 per cent), but courses in French, German, Chinese, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese were also applied for.

Student and course trends
A majority (43 per cent) of students were referred to agents by a previous client. However, targeted emailing/online marketing also paid dividends in attracting new student business (15 per cent). According to Ashish, 50 per cent of their annual student clients were attracted by seminars comprising information relating to university courses and admission procedures and requirements. “These seminars are jointly conducted by university representatives along with agents,” he says. Ninety per cent of all course requests reflected Indian students’ preference for higher education overseas and largely comprised foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

Agency business
As revealed in our previous survey, higher education is the mainstay part of agency business in India (83.5 per cent compared with 75 per cent previously). “Sometimes we receive requests for other sectors,” says Rupesh, but VET and language instruction is far cheaper at home than it is abroad and there are just too many hoops for Indian students to jump through should they wish to take a language course overseas. The opportunity to work and settle abroad following HE instruction is attractive to students from Tier 2 cities (Indian cities are ranked according to population size) in particular, says Sonya at SIEC, owing to limited education and employment prospects available in their locality. The high cut-off scores at reputable Indian universities and exposure to a different lifestyle and culture are other big drivers. Her agency attends between three and four agent workshops a year when searching for new educator partners to collaborate with. “It is a great time saving exercise where in a couple of days you are able to build new contacts and keep in touch with existing ones.”

Looking ahead
As demand for HE study from the middle classes continues to swell, students will be looking at all routes open to them but visa rulings in certain destination countries will continue to challenge agency business, note several respondents. There is also a lack of understanding of the complex Indian education system among business counterparts, says Sonya. Lack of transparent funding from sponsors and low language proficiency skills in some states are other more interior challenges. nicolahancox@studytravel.network

India key facts

Population: 1,236,344,631 (est. July 2014)
Youth population (aged 15-to-24): 18.1%
Unemployment rate: 8.6% (98th in world rankings)
Youth unemployment rate: 10.7% (97th in world rankings)
GDP per capita: US$5,800 (160th in world rankings)GDP growth rate in 2013: 5.6% (45th in world rankings)
Inflation rate in 2013: 5% (164th in world rankings)
Education expenditures (GDP): 3.8% (134th in world rankings, 2012)
Literacy rate: 71.2%

Source: CIA Factbook

Thank you to the following agencies for taking part in our survey: Europe Study Centre; Sonya International Education Centre; Crown Immigration Consultancy Services; Fraser Valley INC; Competitive Careers; Institute of Foreign Studies ;EDU-World.

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Intercultural Institute of Japan  
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International School of the Algarve  
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English Australia  

British Council  
Campus Living Villages  
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Homestay Technologies  

English New Zealand  


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