Affordable countries, student loans – how small towns in India pursue their education dreams abroad

Once associated with their counterparts in big cities and wealthy families, the world’s exposure is now driven by those in the country’s smaller towns.

Educational consultants and student finance companies testify to the growing number of these college and university aspirants who are aware of the courses that are right for them. Diversifying educational pathways to “affordable countries” like France, Italy and Spain has helped these young people who dream of making it big in life, they say.

Amit, 21, a college graduate from Ajmer, is busy filling out application forms for universities in the UK, US and Germany.

Coming from a middle-class household, he relies on student-friendly scholarships and self-funding options to fund his education. “I am the first in my family to even consider studying abroad. I thought education abroad was unaffordable, but now with the funding options and an idea of ​​the kind of opportunities education abroad has to offer, it’s a risk worth taking to be caught,” he said.

Young Ajmer says his family is ready to take out a loan to finance his studies if he is admitted to a good university.

Ditto for Sulagna Bhattacharyya. The B.Tech degree holder is applying for sustainability consulting courses in France because she feels the options for growth as a software engineer are limited.

“I chose France because it gives me the possibility of doing a work-study program where my employer will finance part of my studies. In addition, the diversity and scope of courses are much greater there than in India. It works as a good arrangement for me since I will be able to fund my own education,” she says.

The 24-year-old started applying for universities in the UK as a backup option. Education in the UK is expensive and will require a loan, but it will provide better job options, she says.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1,33,135 students left the country for studies in the first three months of this year. The figure was 4,44,553 for all of 2021.

Middle class aspirations and the growth of financing options

The figures, shared by a study abroad platform and a student finance company among others, show how eager students in the hinterland are to go abroad to pursue higher education.

In a report released on Tuesday, study abroad platform LeapScholar found that 57% of middle-class Indian families with household incomes between Rs 3 and Rs 10 lakh were inclined to spend on education at the stranger. The reasons they cite include the promise of a superior education and lifestyle, global career opportunities, and better salaries.

The online survey of 649 people across the country was conducted between July and August this year. He revealed that 83% of students surveyed believe that a degree abroad will improve their chances of getting better job opportunities and give them an edge over peer competition in the talent pool.

“Fueled by the growing aspirations of the student community, India’s overseas education market is set to grow and will see over 2 million Indian students soar by 2025 spending over $100 billion on their international education,” Vaibhav Singh, co-founder of LeapScholar, said in a statement.

These growing aspirations are reflected in the growth of the student finance ecosystem.

Student finance firm Prodigy Finance says it has seen 135% growth in disbursements in India in 2022. Mayank Sharma, head of global partnerships at the firm, attributes this to the interest small town students have shown in the over the past year, as well as benevolence towards the company.

Prodigy Finance recorded huge growth of 689% in Tirupati, 332% in Vijayawada, 337% in Guntur, 133% in Nagpur and 552% in Warangal. The data was shared with ThePrint.

Delhi-based student finance company GyanDhan has also seen substantial post-pandemic growth in applications from smaller towns. Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities accounted for 53% of applications in the current fiscal year, up from 37% the previous year.

University Living, an accommodation platform that helps students with hostels and rooms, in Australia, the UK, Ireland, Canada and the US, has also seen a similar trend. “In 2022, 69% of traffic on University Living came from Tier 2 and 3 cities, compared to just 48% in 2021,” its founder, Mayank Maheshwari, told ThePrint.

Read also : The number of foreign students in India has increased by 42% in 7 years. Where do they come from? Always the same countries

France, Italy among the new choices

While the United States, Australia and Canada remain the top destinations for Indian students, there are new entrants to the list – France, Spain and Italy.

Earlier this month, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said the country wanted to have 20,000 Indian students by 2025. “We are starting from something close to 5,000,” she said. , calling the plan “very ambitious.”

Language was a major obstacle for students wishing to branch out to non-English speaking countries such as France, Italy or Spain. However, over the past year, these options have slowly grown in popularity with students and parents. University Living found that in the past year, 5.67% of Indian students going abroad moved to countries like Germany, Spain, France, Portugal and the United Arab Emirates. .

The LeapScholar report indicates that students are now diversifying their country options by neglecting language as a barrier.

Shrilekha, a Mumbai-based entrepreneur whose daughter will fly to Italy to study at a design school, believes higher education options in India are so scarce that affordable education options abroad can offer a better offer to students. She says her daughter has a lot more to gain with her foreign degree.

“Good colleges in Italy will cost around Rs 7-8 lakh per year including living and education. While the cost of enrolling in a private university is the same in India, my daughter is expected to gain global exposure in another country. She will also learn a new language and make global connections,” says Shrilekha.

Post-pandemic, the UK has made a comeback in terms of popularity as an educational destination. Easing visa policies and increasing opportunities for students to stay and work have made it an attractive foreign destination for higher education, industry watchers say.

“Education continues to be one of the pillars of the living bridge between the UK and India. The UK is a world leader in education. Indian students constitute one of the largest groups of international students. The number of UK visas issued to Indian students doubled last year; nearly 1,18,000 UK student visas were issued to Indian nationals in the year ending June 2022, up from nearly 56,000 the previous year,” a High Commission spokesperson said. UK in a statement to ThePrint.

(Editing by Tony Rai)

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