Over the past two years, the Covid-19 pandemic has cast an ominous shadow over several sectors with its ghastly incursion ravaging country after country. However, the one sphere that saw and, in many ways, continues to see its worst onslaught is education. More specifically, international education.
The ad hoc travel restrictions imposed by countries to curb the spread of the virus also ended up clipping the wings of scores of students who were looking forward to pursuing their higher education abroad.
This was aptly reflected in the significant dip that was recorded in the number of students that went abroad between 2019 and 2021. As per data from the Ministry of External Affairs, the number dropped from 588,931 in 2019 to 261,406 in 2020 with many students delaying their travel plans owing to the pandemic.
Things, however, are looking up for those students as counties try to limp back to normalcy by lowering their guard and lifting restrictions. The numbers are already on the rise. In just the first two months of 2021, as many as 71,769 students went abroad for studies. The number is only expected to rise further in the coming months.
Adapt, Adjust, Accommodate
Many students, who decided to venture out regardless of the pandemic, had to change their preferred destination country following country-wise tight travel restrictions.
Australia, a popular choice, for instance, imposed a complete lockdown which made students look at other countries like France, Germany, UAE and even unusual ones like Oman in addition to the usual favourites – the UK, the USA and Canada. This emerged as an interesting trend because Indian students have historically preferred anglophone countries like Canada, the USA, Australia, the UK and New Zealand.
Welcoming the rising numbers, Emmanuel Lenain, ambassador of France to India, says, “I am glad to see that despite the pandemic, a growing number of Indian students are choosing France for their study abroad."
Once there, even the educational institutes in those countries tried their best to support the students and made sure that they did not suffer an academic loss due to the restrictions. Many came up with pro-student measures to maintain regularity and normalcy.
For instance, for the 2021-22 academic year, Indian students enrolled in universities in the UK have been permitted to study online from their preferred spaces until April 6, 2022, allowing them the flexibility to decide their departure date to the UK.
“The UK has supported Indian and other international students to earn their credentials from some of the most renowned universities in the world safely and securely through this period,” says Rittika Chanda Parruck, director, education – India, British Council.
Matters Of The Moolah
The most common issue that hinders students from achieving their study abroad dreams is financial constraint. This is when scholarships come to the rescue. The countries that attract the most number of students from India offer scholarships and other financial aid.
France, which offers more than Rs 10 crore in scholarships to over 500 Indian students per year, has emerged as one such country in the recent past.
A spokesperson from the French Institute in India talks about how non-European students pay less than €4,000 euros (about Rs 343,450) a year for a master's degree and European students have to pay almost nothing in French public universities.
“Seventy five per cent of the cost of studies in France’s elite public institutions is covered by the French taxpayer. Whenever students are selected for a PhD, 86 per cent are funded through a doctoral contract with a university or a laboratory where almost 50 per cent of students have foreign citizenship,” she says.
Education, Experience and Beyond
Studying in a foreign country comes with a whole host of advantages. Countries like the UK, the USA, Canada, France and Oman offer educational excellence with their internally ranked and renowned educational institutions.
In the UK, for example, the most popular subjects that Indian students pick are computer science, engineering and technology, medicine and allied sciences and business management. Parruck explains how the nation provides state-of-the-art facilities and excellent research credits to STEM students.
She also talks about how it helps deliver an evolved international perspective to business students, enabling them to thrive in the most competitive scenarios globally.
In addition to that, countries like the UK also provide students with industry-related experience while offering various internships, training programmes and part-time employment opportunities that students can undertake alongside their studies.