Postponed Plans to Study Abroad? 88% Fall In Indian Students Enroling Abroad In 2019, a total of 588,931 students went to foreign universities compared with 71,769 in 2021, and plans remain marred due to the looming threat of recurring COVID-19 waves

By Ashmita Bhogal

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In January 2020, Mumbai-based Simmah Kazi secured admission at Humber College, Canada, to study business insights and analytics. But the 26-year-old student had no idea what was in store for her. The COVID-19 pandemic struck the world and her plans went awry. She had to delay her plans till January 2021 and again to September 2021. But, she is not alone, as many students are going through the same situation.

Every year thousands of students from India travel abroad to fulfill their lifelong dream of studying at a world-class university. According to a report published by India's ministry of external affairs, in 2019 a total of 588,931 students went to foreign universities for higher studies. Even during the crisis-hit 2020 a total of 261,406 students managed to join foreign universities, but this year the number has gone downhill with only 71,769 students going abroad. That is a fall of almost 88 per cent between 2019 and 2021.

Universities abroad have a couple of intakes: the first one being in spring and the other one being in fall. With the fall approaching, universities are still not sure whether to open or not and allow students to visit. Besides, travel regulations are also playing a major role in deciding the fate of aspiring students.

Evidently, incoming students as well continuing students are suffering a lot amidst the current turmoil.

For the US, China and India are the two major countries which make about half of the international students in the country. Other than the US, the other popular destinations amongst Indian students are Canada, the UK, Australia and Germany.

In the UK, India ranks third after China and the US in international enrollment in English Universities. According to a survey conducted by British Columbia in 2020, it was seen that 39 per cent of students have applied in the universities whereas 22 per cent were still planning to do so. And surprisingly, 43 per cent of students in the survey said that they are highly unlikely to cancel their plans of studying overseas. Although, one cannot deny the fact that 2021 has shattered the expectations of students who wanted to study overseas.

Factors which are affecting the decisions of students:

  • In the current situation, students will have to keep up with the dosage of the vaccine, as countries are allowing only those students who are fully vaccinated.
  • Another factor is travel restriction in countries and flight cancellations. A 2020 report published by Yocket, an education guidance portal, 47 per cent of students were concerned about these travel restrictions, with over 34 per cent students concerned about the VISA process.
  • With the advent of COVID-19, universities across the world took precautions and as a result, the whole education system went online. Along with this, students were also not advised to visit the university campus and the university advised students to take a virtual tour of the college/university. Ivy League varsities are also closed till further notice and all teaching has been moved online.

The wave of uncertainty surrounds the students and they remain stuck. "Basically, my one year got wasted," said Kazi.

Another situation which has taken a serious toll on students is the delay in the procedure and travel bans.

Sharddha Khadepatil, a fall intake student from Mumbai who wants to pursue artificial intelligence course from Canada, said, "Admission procedure was fine but the processing time was quite a bit much. I got the offer letter from my college within one month, but the procedure after that, like applying for VISA were quite delayed due to the pandemic. Moreover, the offices were closed. So, I got my VISA, and the VISA needs to be stamped on the passport. I got my VISA in the month of April and it got stamped in the month of August. It took a long time."

Additionally, visit to Canada from India is restricted which ultimately resulted in expensive flights tickets.

Ashmita Bhogal

Junior writer

Student at Banasthali Vidyapith, Intern at Entrepreneur India.

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