New Delhi: The government on Wednesday announced an ambitious plan to attract 200,000 foreign students to India, more than four times the current number.
The target is part of a “Study in India" scheme launched jointly by four ministries—human resource development, external affairs, home and commerce.
From easing the visa process to giving a sizable fee waiver to foreign students from Asia and Africa, the scheme marks a concerted effort to make Indian campuses diverse, in terms of the number of international students.
Union human resource development minister (HRD) Prakash Javadekar said Indian higher education sector often complains about restrictive rules but now the government is making a conscious effort to liberalize it. “India can become a hub of affordable education for foreign students," he said, adding that they are opening up top universities to foreign students.
“Study in India will open the gates of prominent educational institutions of India for foreign students," Javadekar said.
As part of the move, India will target students from countries in South, South-East and West Asia, Africa and Commonwealth of Independent States that were part of the former Soviet Union.
“Initially, we are targeting 30 partner countries," said R. Subrahmanyam, higher education secretary, adding that his ministry has shortlisted 160 colleges and universities to execute the plan initially.
Authorities said that in order to make the plan attractive, institutions and government will offer fee waiver—partial or full —to over 53% of these foreign students. All admission will happen via a single window system: applicants from these 30 countries will apply on an online platform for selection to 160 institutions.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said that though her ministry attracts foreign students through two dedicated institutions—Nalanda University and the South Asian University—the new move has limitless possibilities in terms of attracting foreign students and tying up with other countries. “Study in India is an invitation to foreign students," she said.
“The move will bring multiculturalism and diversity to Indian universities," said Satyapal Singh, minister of state for HRD. The lack of diversity on Indian campuses is affecting institutions’ international rankings.
Besides, it is expected to bring in revenue over time. Currently, India has some 47,000 foreign students—a tiny number compared to countries with traditionally strong higher education sectors. The US in 2016-17, for instance, was home to more than one million foreign students, including around 187,000 from India alone.
The “Study in India" scheme also marks a departure from the government stand that it must attract foreign universities to India. The union government put its plan to allow foreign universities to operate in India on the back burner after pursuing it for the last several years, Mint reported on 14 August 2017.