To go or not to go: Covid-19 leaves students looking to study abroad in a quandary

Annapurani V Chennai | Updated on April 29, 2020

Uncertainty over visa processing and job opportunities is a big worry

With the outbreak of Covid-19, overseas education consultancy experts in India estimate a 40 per cent drop in demand for education in foreign universities next year.

With the US having the highest number of Covid-19 positive cases and many European countries close behind, students are looking at other options, including studying in India. But those who still want to pursue their degrees abroad in Fall (September 2020) this year are now in a state of confusion.

Getting visa applications processed, the uncertainty around the virus, availability of job opportunities after graduation, and travel restrictions are some of the worries they are grappling with, right now.

“One of the major concerns of the students is the rejection of their student visas,” said Srishti Mittal, co-founder of UniRely, a college counselling platform. Since the embassies are not functional in India, students are concerned about when they would start holding their interviews and granting visas. Some students are also worried that universities may start rejecting international applicants altogether for a few years, she added.

According to data from the Ministry of External Affairs, nearly 10.9 lakh Indian students are pursuing higher education abroad, as of July 2019. Data also showed that the top five destination countries for them (as of July 2018) were the US, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

Students are worried whether they will get housing and part-time jobs in the countries they choose to study in, if they opt for the September 2020 intake, said Augustine Paul Benergy, managing director, Torah Ventures, an overseas education and immigration consultancy firm. He added that a majority of parents in the lower-middle-class rung are not able to decide whether they want to spend their savings for their child’s education or avail loans, because they’re not sure if they’ll still have their jobs after the lockdown.

Due to dampened prospects for job opportunities in the current situation, banks are also being cautious about offering loans for overseas education, especially at the post-graduation level, said Ayush Bansal, founder & CEO,, a career counselling platform.

No one wants to go to ‘Zoom University’

To help students navigate the current situation, a few universities have introduced application fee waivers for those in need of financial assistance. Some universities are also planning to postpone opening their campus, defer a semester, or conduct classes online.

But students are concerned about how effective the online classes will be, whether they will be worth the money they have spent on them, said Torah Ventures’ Benergy.

“One phrase that’s been going around is that “No one wants to go to ‘Zoom University’,” said UniRely’s Mittal.

Students are also anxious about the long-term effect that deferring or postponing may have on the duration of their degrees. “They are looking for details about their date of graduation and the job opportunities they will have after.”

The situation is even more dire for students currently studying abroad. Not all universities are able to offer lectures or conduct exams effectively online, so students are concerned about their missed semesters. Added to that is the effect of Covid-19 on their employment prospects. With layoffs increasing every day in many sectors, students are worried whether immigrants will face more discrimination while applying for jobs.

“The cost of living has increased tremendously for them,” said Bansal. As hostels were shut by many universities, students had to look for outside accommodation, especially the ones who have not been able to return to India, he added.

Published on April 29, 2020

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