The varsities and colleges are worried that students from Afghanistan, the second-largest source of foreign students in India, may be stuck there and may not be able to return
The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the second-largest source of foreign students in India, has put Indian higher educational institutions in a spot, given that many Afghan students are stuck in their war-torn country.
The varsities and colleges are worried about these students who had gone back home due to covid-19 related campus closures, and now may not be able to return. Also, students from Afghanistan—especially female students—may not be able come to India as much as before, impacting international student numbers in the country that is aspiring to be a study-abroad destination.
The Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B) has allowed Afghan students to return, even as it feels it may be too late, since visa offices are closed and air travel is negligible.
“We offered admission to quite a few students from Afghanistan in the masters’ programme this year under scholarships from ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations). Because of online instructions, they were participating in the class from home. However, due to the rapidly deteriorating condition in their homeland, they wanted to come out of their country and join the hostels in the campus. Although we have approved their request to come to the campus as a special case, we are not sure how late it is for them to pursue their dreams. We hope that they are all safe and can join us soon," said Subhasis Chaudhary, director, IIT-B.
Aman Mittal, associate director at Punjab’s Lovely Professional University holds a similar view. Known for attracting foreign students, LPU is home to some 150 Afghanistan students.
“Our students want to come back and we are open to that, but the international travel requirements are almost missing now in Afghanistan. What will happen to women students education is absolutely worrisome now, and till the situation improves and diplomatic relation between India and Afghanistan stabilizes after this crisis, it will be tough for them to come back," said Mittal. He said most of the Afghan students at LPU are not in campus and those who are here are constantly talking to their international affairs office for support.
The administrator at another Punjab-based university said the flow of international students to India will slow, and this will impact the country’s desire to attract more quality students from some of the catchment countries like Afghanistan.
A change in the geo-political situation in Afghanistan would hamper India’s aspirations to be a foreign education destination and curb the number of catchment countries for foreign students, a key factor for improving global ranking. India is home to some 50,000 foreign students and around 10% of them are from Afghanistan, next only to Nepal.
Meanwhile, Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University is discussing requests from its existing Afghan students to come back but has not yet reached any conclusion, though the students’ union is demanding that they be supported to return to the campus.
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