Published: 09th November 2022
Numbers of Indian students opting to study abroad to touch 1.8 million by 2024; UK, US remain top choices
Demonstrating English-language proficiency to universities abroad is a prerequisite for test takers whose primary language is not English
Students from around the world are continually attracted to overseas education programmes offered by international universities. Destinations such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America, among others, have been popular study abroad destinations due to factors including world-class faculty, comprehensive research-based learning programmes, post-study work environments and the general living standards in these countries.
A report by consulting firm Redseer on Higher Education Abroad estimates that the number of Indian students opting for higher education abroad grew from 440,000 in 2016 to 770,000 in 2019 and is set to grow to roughly 1.8 million by 2024. It will not be surprising if these figures continue to rise given the post-pandemic rush to foreign universities.
Today's career-focused students, however, need to consider more than just a top-notch education. It is important for them to consider the type of curriculum offered by an institution, post-study career prospects, as well as the ease of living in the country, when deciding on a study abroad destination to enhance their future work and life goals. The opportunity to work in the same country immediately after completing their education helps students to meet their career aspirations while also providing a better understanding of the course's application in the host country. In line with these expectations, overseas education hubs have introduced post-study work visas, allowing students to land their dream job in the country of their choice.
According to 2021 data from over 75,000 applications processed by Leap Scholar, the UK is the most popular study abroad destination among Indian students, followed by Canada and the United States. The data revealed interesting trends witnessed during 2021 based on the applications for that year, with 49% opting to study in the UK, 36% choosing Canada and 18% selecting the United States to continue their education. The most popular courses for study abroad in 2021 included MBA, as well as MSc degrees in Data Science and Computer Science. MSc degrees in Management, Business Analytics and Project Management also saw an increase in popularity, according to the data.
Studying in the United Kingdom
The UK has always had a positive global reputation for its higher education system. According to the Global University Employability Ranking 2017, UK universities produce the most employable graduates worldwide. With the introduction of the Graduation Immigration Route, interest in the UK as a study abroad destination has grown. The Graduate Route provides an opportunity for international students who have been awarded their degree to stay in the UK and work, or look for work, at any skill level for two years, or three years for doctoral students. The most recent offer from the UK of a two-year post-study work permit to international students and affordable tuition fees has made them an even more lucrative destination.
Just a few months ago, the UK and India signed a memorandum of understanding, which allows for greater student mobility between the two countries. The UK is the only English-speaking country to have such a policy in place.
Shonagh Maak, International Recruitment Manager, South and Southeast Asia, University of Glasgow, said, "UK universities have a really impressive international reputation and rank amongst the best in the world. Research carried out by UK universities affects every single person’s life on a daily basis."
"The opportunity to work is a big driver for a lot of our international students and particularly for South Asian students. While you are a student, you can work up to 20 hours a week part time or even work full time during your semester breaks, which helps to have a little bit of extra spending money for your bills as well as get experience in the sector one might work in. Under the International Graduation Immigration Route, undergraduate and postgraduate students can benefit from two years’ work experience. "There is such a huge variety of degrees and universities in the UK, so there is something for everyone here," Maak added.
Studying in the United States
US universities rank in the top number of QS World University Rankings 2022, just like that of UK universities which have consistently maintained their ranking year over year, offering the highest quality of education. The United States had a particularly strong rebound with the new political administration welcoming international students.
Talking about how one should select 'the right university’ from a pool of hundreds of renowned universities in the United States, Aparna Chandrasekaran, Education USA Advisor, said it is important for students to start the research and shortlisting process quite early.
"There are 4,700 accredited colleges and universities in the United States and it can be very confusing for students to decide which is the right fit. Our advice is to start at least 12-18 months prior to actually joining a university in the US If students want to join a university in the fall (September) of 2023, they should start as early as February 2022
"Further, students should check the accreditation of universities. In addition to this, students must consider course curriculum, research work in the department, faculty profile, cost of attendance at each university, financial aid provided by the college or university, and, of course, location too is important to be considered when you are shortlisting universities," Chandrasekaran added.
English-language proficiency test — a prerequisite
Demonstrating English-language proficiency to universities abroad is a prerequisite for test takers whose primary language is not English. Most institutions offer additional time to applicants to furnish English-language results such as the TOEFL iBT® test which is a key requirement to get admission to an institution. The TOEFL iBT test is accepted by more than 11,500 institutions in more than 160 countries — meaning, scores are accepted by universities in all major education hubs including the UK, the United States, Canada, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, among others.
Taking the TOEFL iBT test is a great way for students to bolster their application as it demonstrates their fluency in academic English — the English that matters when they step foot in university classrooms. The TOEFL iBT test is the only test with 100% academic English content, one of the driving reasons that the test is the most respected and accepted English-language test for admissions.
Speaking on TOEFL, Lejo Oommen, Managing Director of ETS India, said “At ETS, we are committed to helping Indian students get the best preparation and assistive tools for scoring the requisite marks in TOEFL. Our range of online and offline preparation materials, including the official study guides, help study abroad aspirants through their preparation life cycle.”
He added, “Test prep is just one small part of what we do. Through the ETS India research centre that we set up recently, we are reaching out to institutions and providing early guidance to pre-final and final year students to help them fulfill their overseas education dream.”
Finally, even though the pandemic led to an unprecedented situation, the resilience of Indian students to pursue and attain higher education has remained undeterred. A combination of high educational standards, linguistic diversity and better employment opportunities attract millions of students every year to pursue their study abroad dream.
(Lejo Sam Oommen is the Managing Director of ETS India, a subsidiary of ETS based in Princeton, N.J. USA. He is a seasoned business leader with deep management experience and wide business perspectives developed working across locations and sectors.
(Lejo Sam Oommen is the Managing Director of ETS India, a subsidiary of ETS based in Princeton, N.J. USA. He is a seasoned business leader with deep management experience and wide business perspectives developed working across locations and sectors.)