The Future of India’s Future: Increasing Global Education Opportunities for Indian Students
In recent years, several changes have taken place in the Indian and global landscape, which students seeking to pursue higher education overseas, as well as in India cannot ignore. Some overseas universities are likely to set up campuses in India. The West is seeking to attract more Indian students as a result of strained ties with China. In the imminent future, there will be many more joint programs between Indian institutions and overseas educational institutions. And most importantly, the focus will now be on technological skills and languages and not degrees. It is important for parents also to bring about a change in mindset.
For long, Indian students have stuck to conventional career paths, and even when applying overseas, they have stuck to what are considered ‘safe choices’ – both in terms of subjects chosen as well as destinations (US, UK, Canada and Australia have been preferred destinations for Indian students). Indian students going to pursue higher education overseas generally tend to prefer to pursue degrees in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Management), Finance and Law (of late, the number of students going overseas for liberal arts and humanities-related courses has also risen).
In recent years, several changes have taken place in the Indian and global landscape, which students seeking to pursue higher education overseas as well as in India cannot ignore.
First, the USA, UK, Canada and Australia, as a result of strained ties with China, have been trying to reduce their dependence upon Chinese students and have been seeking to attract more students from India. China itself has been focusing on improving the quality of its higher education – especially in STEM subjects. Western countries and Australia will try to attract Indian students, specifically in certain subjects, and may also bring about revisions to the existing work visa regime in order to attract more Indian students. While the liberal immigration-related policies of Canada, which have helped it to attract highly skilled professionals in recent years, understandably draw attention, other Western countries will also need to change their work-related policies in order to attract talent from India. Under the UK-India Migration and Mobility Partnership, a reciprocal scheme through which UK and Indian nationals between the age of 18-30 can work for a period of two years in each other’s countries has started (in November 2022, the UK gave the go-ahead for 3000 such visas).
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Second, non-western countries like UAE have been trying to attract not just Indian entrepreneurs and professionals, through new long-term visa categories, but talented students who have studied at UAE institutions – university graduates as well as high school pass-outs in certain cases – are eligible for the Golden Visa. It would be pertinent to point out that the UAE now houses not just top-class Western institutions, but also Indian campuses. If students chose to study in a Western (Canadian, UK or American) or Australian institution in UAE, they pay lesser fees and are much closer to India and yet can get their final degree from the West or Australia. UAE is also starting scholarships for Indian students.
While UAE may never seem the first choice for Indian parents, given the massive economic opportunities, and the strides the country is making in the sphere of Research and Development (R&D) and innovation, this could change. UAE and Saudi Arabia have also been seeking to attract IT professionals who have been laid off in the West. Several other countries like Taiwan, South Korea and possibly even Vietnam could become attractive destinations for Indian students.
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Third, while India has had top-class business and engineering institutions, in recent years several liberal arts institutions have come up, which provide quality education as well as exchange programs, via which students can do a semester abroad, and can get exposure to higher education overseas. In the imminent future, there will be many more joint programs between Indian institutions and overseas educational institutions which could result in many students opting for joint degrees.
Fourth, some overseas universities are likely to set up campuses in India over the long run (there is no doubt, that currently there are several logistical issues and uncertainty over this issue). This would be a great opportunity to get high-quality education in India itself. Deakin University has already started an overseas campus in Gujarat (though this offers limited courses), and in doing so has become the first overseas university to do so. In the future other universities could also set up campuses in India.
Fifth, the focus will now be on technological skills and languages and not degrees. It is important that students acquire these skills at the school level itself. Apple CEO, Tim Cook, while commenting on the importance of coding during his recent India visit, said: “Coding is the only global language and I wish that more Indian students, including girls, learn coding early in school days so that they can create world-class products and solve real-life problems as they grow up”
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The CBSE (Central Board for Secondary Education) has recently stated that it will introduce Coding and AI (Artificial Intelligence) courses from the 6th grade itself (earlier such options were given after the 10th grade).
In conclusion, in a world which has become much more interconnected due to technology, it is not so much the geographical location but the type of education which will matter. All stakeholders need to make sure that Indian students are in sync with the changing landscape and that the approach towards education and careers changes significantly otherwise with increasing automation the challenge of unemployment could be further exacerbated. Apart from innovative education-related policies, it is important for parents also to bring about a change in mindset.
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About the author
Tridivesh Singh Maini is a New Delhi-based Policy Analyst. He is associated with The Jindal School of International Affairs, OP Jindal Global University, Sonepat, Haryana.