Study Abroad: Why are Indian students surpassing Chinese nationals going to US, UK? – The Indian Express

Indian Students in UK and US: A report on immigration released by the UK has shown that Indian students have now become the largest group of foreign students in the country, surpassing the Chinese.
According to the Immigration Statistics Report, 127,731 visas were granted to Indian students in September 2022, an increase of 93,470 (+273 per cent) against 34,261 in 2019. However, 116,476 visas were granted to those from China, 2 per cent lower than the number seen in 2019 (119,231).
Similarly, in the US, the number of Indian students has more than doubled, and the Open Doors Report 2022 has predicted that the number of Indian students heading to America is likely to surpass those from China in 2022-23.
The rise in the number of Indian students and the decline in that of Chinese nationals in the US and the UK might be because of Covid-19 among others, some experts believe.
Chinese students used to be the largest group when it came to nationality for sponsored study grants between 2010 to June this year. However, there was a decline of 8.6 per cent in 2021-2022 at 2.9 lakh in the number of Chinese students in the US, according to the Open Doors 2022 report on international students released recently.
“This is due to a variety of factors, including fear of catching Covid overseas, along with the challenges with respect to returning home for students in such circumstances. When compared to pre-pandemic levels, the number of student visas granted to Chinese citizens in the first half of 2022 decreased by more than 50 per cent. Many aspiring Chinese students have had to reevaluate their plans to pursue higher education in the US and UK due to pandemic-related visa delays, unfavourable political policies, and increased global competitiveness,” said Piyush Kumar, Regional Director (South Asia and Mauritius), IDP Education.
Even data from the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) has shown the number of Chinese students in Australia has been dropping for the past five years. “Travel restrictions are a strict part of the country’s Covid-19 management process leading to many taking up the online mode of learning,” said Professor S Bruce Dowton, Vice-Chancellor, President, Macquarie University.
Shankar Subbanarasayya Mantha, former chairman, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), also agrees Covid-19 could be a reason, however, it is not the only one. “The pandemic has certainly put some breaks on the movement. In China, the Covid after effects have never really died down, so that is one reason,” he said.
‘Look China policy’
Bill Rammell, the UK’s former education minister, said the decline in the number of Chinese nationals coming to the UK to study might be because of “the overall Chinese government policies regarding international organisations”. “I think there is more of a meeting of minds between India and the UK about studying internationally,” he said.
Echoing similar views as Rammell, Mantha said the Chinese government is now promoting its local institutions and facilities. “China is now following the ‘look China policy’ in which they are promoting their own institutions and facilities, with the aim of motivating the young talent to stay back in the country and conduct research and development for their home country, rather than abroad,” he explained.
While there has been a decline in the number of nationals, “the vacancies have not decreased, and so Indians fill this gap, resulting in an increase in the number of Indian students abroad,” he added.
Mantha also said Indian students have an upper hand as compared to Chinese nationals when it comes to getting jobs in western countries due to better communication skills. “Language is not a problem for Indian students. Indians are fundamentally sincere, loyal and trustworthy and are preferred. Many of them get a scholarship or some avenue to support themselves, so they head abroad for studies. Since communication is not a problem, they prefer going to the US, the UK and Australia, especially now that Covid has subsided,” he told
The former AICTE chief said another probable reason behind this decline could be that Chinese nationals are not trusted with research or data-based jobs now due to concerns about a data breach. “A lot of universities in the US, the UK etc are connected to real-time research industries. In this space, the Chinese students participating in the active research that happens, which connects to society and niche areas, are not much preferred. Indian students are trusted due to security issues. There are fears regarding letting the research go out,” he said.
When asked if the rise in racism against Chinese nationals in western countries after Covid-19 can also be a reason behind students from China now being hesitant about studying abroad, Rammell brushed it off. “I am not going to say that racism does not exist in British society. But by and large, the UK is a very multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society. If you look at the polling evidence, the vast majority of people support international students coming to the UK, and that includes Chinese students,” said Rammell.
However, some Asian students studying in the UK disagree and recall the moments when they were victims of racism in British cities. “Asians had been using face masks even before the pandemic and we were made fun of and ridiculed for it before the Covid pandemic too. However, that increased after the pandemic. I have been told to go back to ‘my country’ several times on UK streets, and I have some other friends from the Asian background who have dealt with the same,” said Pui Mun Chan, a recent graduate from the UK.
Preferred destinations
Though Indian students have the option of studying in several countries, the popularity of the US and the UK as preferred study-abroad destinations has not been impacted. The US remains to be the go-to destination for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses. Similarly, the UK is home to some prestigious universities that rank high in the global ranking assessment. Indian students usually opt for the best-in-class medical, management and law courses in the UK and look forward to the practical training and real-life case studies they offer, experts believe.
“Education is one of the mainstays of the unique living bridge connecting the UK and India and we are pleased to see that over 127,700 student visas were issued to Indian nationals in the year ending September 2022—a 273 per cent increase since 2019,” a British High Commission spokesperson said.
The Indian community is well-integrated into UK society as well. Some of the changes—such as the two-year post-study work visa—make the country an attractive destination for Indian students. “There are also other initiatives from private UK institutes or organisations such as 2+1 programmes that help introduce Indian students to the British education system, and attract them to study in the UK,” Rammell said.
While Indian students are a bit hesitant about heading to Ukraine, Russia, and some Asian countries amid the Russia-Ukraine war and Covid-19, the trust they put in the US and UK continues to remain the same, if not more.
“Indian students and parents recognise that the value of a US degree is unparalleled in the world. We are fortunate to attract students from almost every country across the globe, including India, and more than a million international students currently pursue higher education in the United States, including more than 2 lakh from India,” a US embassy spokesperson said.
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Deeksha Teri, Deeksha Teri articles, Indian ExpressDeeksha TeriDeeksha Teri is currently working as a Senior Sub-Editor at <em>The In… read more


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