By Prof. (Dr.) Gunjan M. Sanjeev, Vice Preseident RBEF and Director International Affairs, Amity University, Gurugram(Manesar).
With the announcement of National Educational Policy (NEP) 2020, a long awaited delight for the Indian education sector, by Hon’ble HRD minister, Mr. Ramesh Pokhriyal , the focus on internationalization of higher education in India is further strengthened. “Study in India” initiative launched by Govt. of India forms an integral component of the new policy and getting a lot of attention from policy makers and HEIs recently. The NEP 2020 envisages India to be positioned as a global study destination and various innovative indicatives outlined in the policy will witness greater number of international students visit India for their higher studies.
Welcome to the new face of higher education in India, as most higher educational institutions (HEIs) aspire to blend themselves into an essential international trend of comprehensive internationalization of higher education. “Study in India” initiative launched by the Govt. of India in April 2018 is crafted to attract 200,000 international students to Indian Universities – public, private and deemed- around 150 in number, by 2023.
Some of the benefits of having more international presence in the Diasporas at campuses are evident. Stepping up the levels of global rankings of Indian HEIs, diversity of nationalities adding to vibrancy of learning environment at campuses and attracting best talent from target countries are just a few of them that come to our minds first. Another important aspect that also needs to be evaluated is – how will the entry of international students in India affect the Indian economy? This article presents some key observations and exploratory views on this matter.
World over, in most countries, a positive impact is observed on economies of the host counties due to entry of international students. In United States, as per latest published reports by NAFSA, International students make 5.5% of the all US college enrollments. These overseas students and their families contribute more than $40 billion into the US economy each year . International students led to creation of or supported over 455,000 US jobs. Similarly, one quarter of the founders of the $1 billion U.S. startup companies are immigrants who came to America as international students. International students also have an impact innovation in the host countries. In 2016, all American winners of the Nobel Prizes, all six of them, in economics and scientific fields were immigrants.
Australia’s education ‘exports’ augmented by $5 billion in 2018-19 to a record high $37.6 billion. Fees and living expenses borne by them represent’s Australia’s largest export, allowing only Iron ore and coal to be ahead. Similar results have been observed in other countries such as UK, Germany and Denmark to name a few.
By bringing in 200,000 students, India is certainly going to have some similar implications on the Indian economy, too. How much, let’s see.
Firstly, there will be augmentation in foreign exchange earned through entry of international students. More the number of students; more shall be the foreign exchange earnings. Thus, the impact of their entry on our economic indicators will certainly be positive. However, policy makers should recognize that any such impact should always be evaluated taking cognizance of the fact that there is also a large outflow of foreign exchange happening as several thousands of Indian students move out of the nation to pursue their dreams at foreign locations. According to the Ministry of External Affairs (2019), there were over 750,000 Indian students studying overseas in the year 2018 studying across 90 countries spending around 20 billion a year.
On the other hand, as per latest reported data by All India Survey of Higher Education(AISHE) 2018-19, an annual survey instituted by Ministry of Human Resource Development(MHRD), Government of India, the total number of foreign enrollments are at 47,427, little up from 46,144 as reported in the report 2017-18. The AISHE 2018-19 reports that highest share of international students come from nations nearby or just across borders. The leaders include Nepal (26.88%) that boasts the highest, followed by Afghanistan (9.8%), Bangladesh (4.38%), Sudan (4.02%), Bhutan(3.82%), Nigeria(3.4%). The top ten countries out of a total of 164 countries bring in more than 63.7% of the total inflow of international students.
The foreign exchange earned through increased entry of international students may certainly rise with time. However for net exchange earnings to turn positive due to increase in inbound students over foreign exchange lost due to outbound students, it will certainly be a long road. However, the silver lining is that as the number of international students increase, the deficit is certainly going to shrink! An additional rub off effect of the “Study in India” initiative will be on the inflow of international students from the above target countries, who may not get a scholarship, based seat, but will then look at other options of taking admission in other Indian Universities. This will also result in additional foreign exchange earnings in form of tuition fee or their spending on living expenses.
Secondly, stronger currencies will add value in the long term. It will be very beneficial for the economy if large number of students from developed counties, having stronger currencies, find India an attractive destination for their higher studies. Interestingly, as per AISHE 2018-19, US stands at the 7th place in terms of foreign students in India with 1518 students. Some of the other developed nations from where students are enrolling for full time programs are Canada, U.K., Singapore, France, Australia, Japan, Germany amongst others. The numbers though are not significant! A closer look at understanding the needs of students coming from these countries to study in India may result in identification of “niche” programs of interest to these students which can then be magnified and strengthened both in terms of capacity and quality. These programs will then attract more numbers from the developed counties and create more economic wealth due to inflow of stronger currencies for our nation. It may be of interest to understand that demand of such programs may be inelastic to the tuition waivers or scholarships and that India has a good opportunity to create premium “products” and charging a premium price for such programs. It will further help to attract sizeable foreign exchange thus sustainably impacting the Indian economy in the positive direction.
Thirdly, the Indian states that are hosts to international students are going to benefit economically through spending by international students locally and higher usage of civic facilities. This will also result in more jobs being produced at these locations. Some of the states that rule in terms of attracting highest number of international students are – Karnataka (21%), Maharashtra (10.5%), Punjab (9.6%),Uttar Pradesh (9.5%) and Tamil Nadu (8.6%). This implies that around 60% population of international students is concentrated in these five states. It is common for foreign nationals to stay as Paying Guests or taking apartments on rent. Thus, there is a growing industry around their needs of housing, transportation and fooding, which is of course contributing to an upsurge in economy in those states. Similar opportunities will need to be created in other states as well and this would result in balanced economic wealth in regions across the country. Some food for thought for all of us on how we can achieve this in next few years!
Fourthly, Indian Universities that offer differentiated services or products will attract more international students thus contributing positively to the Indian economy in their own way. While the “Study in India” initiative is currently considering the top ranked institutions as per NIRF ranking, published by MHRD, Government of India and institutions with high NAAC score, some of the international students may make their own choices depending on their preferences of the location and academic interests for a specific discipline. Or any other differentiation created by the University!
Lastly, there is also a boost to local tourism in the country. It is seen that most students visiting India, whether for short term or full time programmes, would want to visit Taj Mahal, forts in Jaipur or take a dip in the holy Ganges in Banaras, specially those based in the northern India states. The tickets for foreign nationals are often differentially priced on the higher side. Further, when they have their families visit them, whether for an occasion visit or to applaud their wards at the time they receive their degrees, they are often the visitors to Indian monuments or places of cultural or historical interest. Thus, they are also contributors of inbound tourism in the country in their own way. Thus the contribution to Gross Domestic Product(GDP), through local tourism by international students, will also surge in the positive way.
It is now time for HEIs, policy makers, faculty and students to review mindset towards co- habiting our country with foreign nationals. It will be worth an effort to take a second look at our policies and practices currently being followed for academic offerings, visa regulations and work permits for foreign nationals, cuisines offered in Indian campuses. The list is endless and we can certainly do our bit in making the “Study in India” a success. Embracing these changes wholeheartedly will make us a strong nation economically as well.
Are we ready with our Indian tilak and garlands to welcome foreign nationals from both near and far?