EdCIL is in collaboration with the government to launch a major campaign aimed at attracting foreign students to India
The huge demand for higher education in India from students within the country had for years resulted in virtual neglect of attracting foreign students to the country, unlike in places like the US, UK or Australia, where universities and governments aggressively promote their institutions. But things have now started to change dramatically in India. Meet Diptiman Das, Chairman and Managing Director, EdCIL (India) Ltd – a state-owned entity, formerly known as the Educational Consultants of India Ltd, that is the only company under the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
Das is excited as he talks about how India will soon emerge as a major magnet, drawing thousands of students from across the globe for higher studies. In fact, EdCIL has already kick-started the process and the response has been excellent. “The Indian education sector has enormous opportunities,” Das told Khaleej Times at his New Delhi office. “Today, India has the third-largest higher education network in the globe.”
Unfortunately, the country ranks 26th in terms of inbound students from abroad (only foreigners, not NRIs and Persons of Indian Origin). About 50,000 foreign students are studying in India, many of whom come through their government-sponsored schemes from nearby countries, notably Bhutan, Nepal and Afghanistan. Das points out that India has in recent years built up an enviable record in higher education and several institutes – both government-owned and private ones – have established a significant reputation for providing top-quality education. “The government and EdCIL have now decided to launch a major campaign to woo foreign students to come and study in India,” he says. “We want to brand India as a preferred destination for higher education.”
EdCIL has identified 80 higher education institutions, both public and private, which are rated 3.26 and above (A+ category) by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC). These institutions also figure in the top 100 list of the National Institute Ranking Framework, a ministry of HRD unit.
According to Das, EdCIL is targeting 30 countries as high potential ones, which could send their students to these Indian universities. They include the UAE and some other Gulf nations as well. “We would like to make the job of foreign students, wanting to study in India, easy,” he explains. “They can apply to these 80 universities through our website and not have to go through intermediaries or agents. We will also support them with visa and other rudimentary facilities.”
The initiative was launched in April by Sushma Swaraj, India’s External Affairs Minister. The first cycle of admissions is already over. About 7,000 foreign students have registered and about 2,000 – from neighbouring countries as well as from the Middle East including Syria – have got admissions to reputed Indian institutions including the Delhi Technological University, many National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and leading private universities. “We hope to raise the number of foreign students in India from 50,000 at present to 200,000 in just five years,” says Das. “This would also result in increasing diversity in Indian campuses. Many of our universities lose out on global rankings because of lack of diversity of students from different countries.”
Interestingly, there are several fee waivers for students applying to these select universities (admission is only by merit), who offer a total of 20,000 seats to the foreigners. About 1,500 of the students would get 100 per cent fee waiver and there would be 50 per cent and 25 per cent waivers as well. A total of 8,000 foreign students can enjoy the fee waivers.
Interestingly, 200 of the Fortune 500 companies visit these 80 campuses for recruitments, so many of the foreign students could land up jobs in India, or in their own countries after completing their courses, explains Das. India will in due course emerge as a major international higher education hub because of the presence of a large number of excellent institutions. “We have many quality universities, and the fees are just a fourth of those charged by institutions in the West,” says the EdCIL chief.
Another advantage is that the courses are in English. “India has changed a lot over the past 30 years and is today the sixth largest in terms of GDP,” notes Das. Besides the formal courses that these universities and colleges offer, EdCIL is also interested in getting foreign students for niche courses such as those in classical dancing, Ayurveda and Yoga. “Some would be short-term courses,” he says.
Interestingly, many foreigners are eager to learn Hindi, especially with India soon likely to emerge as the most populated nation and where Hindi is the national language and used widely.
EdCIL plans to increase a social media presence across the globe, including the Gulf and the Middle East. It is also setting up call centres and will have a holistic marketing strategy to reach out to foreign students in different parts of the world. The company quadrupled its turnover over the last three years and over the next five will emerge as a Rs15 billion entity (from the present turnover of Rs2.88 billion), adds Das.