Over one million Indian students were studying abroad as of July 2019, data from the foreign ministry reveals. In fact, India sends more students overseas to pursue higher education than any other countries aside from China. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has now put an end to many students’ study-abroad plans. With international travel bans, exams postponed, lockdowns preventing paperwork completion, and the overall uncertainty regarding the future, Indian students simply don’t know if or when they’ll be able to study overseas.
It’s not yet clear whether universities are going to open physically or offer online classes only, which is further causing students to stall their plans. Sumeet Jain, a Delhi-based study abroad consultant, predicts a “huge dropout” of students if tuition fees are kept the same but classes are moved online. “Students won’t pay the same amount for online classes. They [universities] need to reduce the fees for online classes,” Jain said. “Students are uncertain of their own finances; they are worried. Many are not getting loans for online classes.” Fortunately, accelerated online degrees may become an increasingly popular option for students who don’t want to delay their studies. Online classes are the fastest way to get a bachelor’s degree. With online learning, students can get a degree in most subjects in as little as six or eight weeks.
Changing choice of country
The countries Indian students choose to study in may change due to the pandemic. Students aiming for Australia are most likely to go elsewhere (69%), while students with the UK as their first choice are least likely to change their decision (25%), a survey by Shiksha, an education consultancy, reveals. Students’ decisions are primarily influenced by the country’s job prospects, rather than the effectiveness of their response to the pandemic. Students typically want to work while studying or gain work experience with post-study work visas — which is no longer possible with many economies now under strain.
In addition to being unsure about when they’ll be able to travel abroad, Indian students are also struggling to get visas. “The visa process is definitely impacted by the lockdown and international travel restrictions. Applying for a visa is a detailed process requiring extensive documentation about education, financials and medical clearances. The lockdown conditions have made these tasks difficult to carry out, so students are not in a position to submit their visa applications with all the required documentation,” said Maria Mathai, director of MM Advisory Services. Mathai has seen a notable drop in applications. “By this time of the year, students are usually busy with visa applications and confirmations, but this year students are still assessing their options,” she notes.
Nevertheless, Indian students are still hoping to fulfil their dreams of studying abroad. According to Shiska’s survey, only 11% of students are seriously considering cancelling their plans. In contrast, 72% of students aim to study abroad this year, while just 27% want to defer to next year.