New Delhi: India’s efforts to attract more foreign students to its universities may have begun with a lukewarm response this year, but data for fresh foreign students in the US shows the government’s Study in India programme holds promise contrary to perception.

India with a proper strategy can reap a handsome dividend even without looking for students from developed countries, two government officials said citing latest data.

“There were criticisms that India is not targeting developed countries but developing or poor countries for attracting foreign students. The fresh data from the US shows that there is a huge promise from the countries the human resource development ministry and domestic universities are targeting...be it Nepal, Vietnam or Nigeria," said the first official, requesting anonymity.

“Among the top 25 countries that are sending students to the US, there are more than 15 we are looking at. So, the capability of those students in terms of talent, aspiration or ability to pay cannot be questioned," he said.

The Open Doors report issued last week in the US showed catchment countries for India are reporting a strong growth in sending students to the US. And, this at a time, when there are growing concerns among international students on securing employment in the US, while restrictive immigration noises from the Trump administration has led students questioning whether they will be able to get a good return on their investments after pursuing expensive American education.

The second official said the 32 countries targeted by India are high-potential destinations and there is a need for awareness on how the country’s top colleges and universities including IITs, IIM, central research laboratories, science colleges and central universities are a good option. “Besides, the course fee is minuscule in comparison to the US or UK. If India can be a good destination for foreign patients and medical tourists, why not top Indian institutions be able to attract international students," said the official, adding Indian schools do need to pull up their act in terms of better infrastructure at some places and overall perception.

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