Compared to 2023, there is a 40 per cent drop in the number of applications from Indian students wanting to travel overseas for studies, says Lil Bremermann-Richard, Group CEO of London-based Oxford International Education Group

“The UK, US, Canada and Australia are going to go slow in inviting applications from foreign students due to elections in their respective countries. In election campaigns, a key topic in these countries, is always immigration. In order to gain votes, they are tightening immigration rules to demonstrate control. The easy target is to tighten student migration, because that is controllable immigration,” Bremermann-Richard told businessline during her recent visit to Mumbai.

“This noise about immigration is causing fear in India. Students are concerned about their future. This concern has caused applications to be lower by 40 per cent compared to last year,” she said, adding that the “inquires” for overseas education continue to remain high from India despite a drop in applications. “The students are waiting to see how things pan out. They are looking for reassurance that they will be able to complete their course overseas,” said an official from the private international education company.

Visa rejections

This 2024 trend also leads to a higher rate of visa rejections in some of the countries that are among the most-favoured overseas destinations for Indian students. “The visa application rejections for the UK is at 3 per cent, the rejections for Australia and the US are as high as 25 and 50-60 percent, respectively. However, this is a cyclical phenomenon and it happens close to elections. What is unusual this year is that elections are happening in many countries and there is a lot of noise about immigration in destination countries,” she said.

“The governments in the UK, US and Australia have made it clear that they want more international students. But they must be genuine about studying and not use the study-visa as means to migrate to these countries. Each of these governments have taken their own approach to ensure this. In the case of Australia, they are conducting thorough credibility interviews and if students cannot demonstrate they are not serious about the course they will be refused a visa. The US is also doing something similar and visa refusals have spiked. In the UK, they removed the ability for students to switch from student to work visa during their studies. Secondly, they also put restrictions on dependents as they found out that many were not real dependents; there were instances of forged weddings; and they were working full time and sending the money back home,” she added.

Foreign campuses won’t deter

When asked if the Indian government’s decision to allow foreign universities to set up campuses in India will adversely affect the flow of students going overseas, she said, “Foreign campuses are new for India. But such campuses have been set up in countries like Malaysia, Singapore, UAE and Mauritius. However, in these countries, we have seen there is no change in the number of students wanting to go overseas for studies. What you get from studying abroad is not the degree, but the exposure, the cultural experience and the connections. After all, it is a completely different experience to be studying in another country. The foreign campuses in India will open up opportunities for students who cannot go overseas for studies for.different reasons including affordability, family issues or other commitments.”

According to Oxford International Education Group, there is a significant increase in demand among overseas students from India for courses related to artificial intelligence, cyber security and technology. “With significant noise around the next industrial revolution caused by AI, students are also looking for courses that have AI and cyber security as a significant part of their course. From India, we are seeing an increased demand in Engineering. It is connected to infrastructure development in India,” the official added.