Published: 20th April 2020
The Corona Legacy: Are Indian students opting out of courses abroad in a post-COVID world?
While some say Indian students are willing to continue here and that the education sector might get the much-needed boost, others think the students might change their plans to fit the current situati
Ankit Hegde (name changed), has always wanted to pursue his education abroad and was set to apply to colleges when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Now, he is apprehensive about his plans. "I don't know what to do now. My parents are not very keen on sending me abroad even when this (pandemic) situation stabilises. I am now scared of leaving for a foreign country after dozens of reports about how students got stranded. On top of that, this might alter the chances of students from developing nations to get a visa," said Ankit.
Every year more than thirty lakh Indian students go abroad to study but 2020 might see a much lower turn out due to the Coronavirus pandemic that has affected 18,033 and claimed 570 lives in India till date. There are varying verdicts among students — while some do not want to risk it and have decided to reapply next year, some are still hopeful that this will all blow over.
A study by LeverageEdu found that 76 per cent students, registered to their platform, are planning to go ahead with their education abroad in the next 6-10 months (upcoming September or January intakers). But 16 per cent said that they will make a decision over the summer, while 8 per cent are considering deferring their process due to the COVID-19 outbreak. "A lot of them did not know the medical facilities measures taken by Universities as contingencies for the upcoming intakes such as blended learning options — after they came to know of this, 91 per cent of the students said that they will stick to their plan of going abroad. There are multiple reasons behind this — long term plans, health systems, etc were seen as top indicators. We are also helping a lot of them pursue short term programmes offered by reputed universities, that will help them a lot on the other side of these times," said Akshay Chaturvedi, Founder and CEO, LeverageEdu.
But not everyone will agree with Akshay. The pandemic has delayed or altogether crashed the plans of studying abroad for a lot of students, said Dr Jitin Chadha, Founder and Director, Indian School of Business and Finance (ISBF), New Delhi. "From what we know through our educational partners on the ground, the lockdown restrictions in almost all prominent countries have already affected about 70 to 80 per cent of the students who were planning on pursuing a programme in a foreign university – there are some students who have altogether dropped the idea of going to the US and Europe while some who already have offers or are expecting offers is a bit more optimistic about their chances of going abroad," said the Director. "However, these students, too, have now begun to seek for alternatives within India. Evidently, we have seen a correlated leap in the queries about the London School of Economics programmes we offer at ISBF in the last month, especially since the lockdown, as more and more students and their parents come to grip with the grim global reality," he added.
Abhradeep Bhattacharyya was set to travel to the USA for his masters this year but will probably drop the plan in light of the recent developments. It is not just about the health risk though, explained Abhradeep. "The universities are offering online courses for the first semester. But that raises a few issues. What happens to me if I start the course now but am denied a visa later when I want to go. On top of that, the visa process has been delayed by almost three months. Secondly, I do not just want the brand of a foreign university. I opted to study in the USA because I want to avail their resources — interactions with the teachers, positive peer groups, libraries and other such aspects make it lucrative. If I have to opt for an online course why not study in Indian universities which have tie-ups with foreign varsities or the institutes which are setting up base in India?" he asked. "The universities are also providing no concession on the tuition fees and the chances of a teaching assistantship also seems weak. Last but not the least, students would not be able to get proper internships during this period and that is a big disadvantage," added Abhradeep, who currently works at an MNC in Kolkata.
Anshu Chopra, who teaches Economics at the University of Delhi said that the admission process and the mindset of prospective students will surely change post-COVID 19 outbreak. "With the majority of entrance examinations delayed across Asia, the enrolment of students in graduate and undergraduate courses world over will be affected especially during the fall semester," she said. "With the fear of COVID-19 pandemic looming large on the mindset of the general public, students would want to study closer to home rather than explore further off destinations. COVID-19 threat coupled with the uncertainty of jobs and visa hassles would lead to an emergence of a new model for higher education which would be regional rather than global," added Anshu, an Associate Professor at the Department of Economics, Shivaji College, DU.
Will this crisis make more students study in India? Yes, at least for the time being, thinks Dr Jitin Chadha. "Though how many eventually stay will depend on what the situation is a few months from now. The higher education institutions that have an opportunity to come into their own in this scenario are the ones that offer international education here in India. Students go abroad in the first place in search of high-quality education and if they can get that here in India from the safety and comfort of their homes in these extenuating conditions, that too at a fraction of cost of pursuing the same programme abroad, then these become excellent options for students to look at," he said.
COVID-19, in all likelihood, will boost the Indian education sector, said Dr Subhajit Ghosh, Professor, Computer Science Engineering (CSE), Manav Rachna International Institute of Research and Studies, Faridabad. "Probably the next five years or so could prove helpful for Higher Education in India with a declining exodus of students to foreign universities," he added.
The government has also realised the impact on the education sector due to the sudden turn of events. "We are already hearing rallying calls from the government and the MHRD that this is an opportunity for Indian higher education to rise to the challenge of serving all these students who would have otherwise gone abroad in search of a world-class education. The necessary shift towards e-learning and e-assessments will allow more teachers to embrace technology," added Dr Chadha.
So, what are the students looking for in Indian institutes? "Students are certainly looking at colleges with foreign links because the gap between the quality of top international education and that offered by even the best Indian universities is still massive. In fact, this is the reason for the increase in enquiries about our programmes. Students understand that we have long-standing and deep tie-ups with global giants like LSE and UOL, which means they can come here and get that same standard of world-class education that LSE and UOL stand for," said Dr Chadha. "The same curriculum, the same assessment standards, and the globally renowned UOL degree — all of this is about 25-30 per cent of the cost of studying abroad, representing huge cost savings for families at a time when a recession is imminent. While they were not always willing to compromise on the experience of being abroad, given the lack of viability for that happen in the current scenario, they are happy to receive the same standard of education here and that too at a fraction of the cost and without any dilution in terms of the curriculum, assessments, awards and overall student experience," he added.
Soham Ghosh, an IT professional based out of Bengaluru would rather change his career plan than go for online classes or even institutes that have tie-ups with foreign varsities. "What I want to pursue is a specialised sector and not many professors teach that or do research on the subject. I had chosen my courses keeping that in mind but if the current situation persists I would rather work on something else than going for online classes at universities or even institutes with tie-ups with the university. It was always about the environment there. It is an add-on that is the deal-breaker," he explained.