BENGALURU: IIM Bangalore had a chance to play host to 19 International students for an educational course in the month of August. It was a moment of pride for the prestigious Indian institution. Apart from a handful instances, there has been a tremendous decline in the number of foreign students coming to India.
The Home Ministry published a mind boggling data pertaining to number of foreign students over the years. According to the report, the number of foreign students from top 8 countries "” the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, South Korea, Australia, China and Singapore, has reduced from 13,961 in 2013 to 3737 in 2014. There had been a marginal increase in 2013 from 2012, when the number was 12,424.
Educationists like Prof CNR Rao and Narayan Murthy have pointed out that there may not be one driving force to this drastic fall. But one way to compensate this drop is to increase the quality of education in the country.
In the past 3 years, students from 160 countries have visited India for studying. The plunge has not just been seen for students from developed countries, but from other developing smaller nations as well. The number of students coming from Afghanistan fell from 6,508 (2013) to 5,738 (2014). The number of students from Bangladesh fell from 1,954 (2013) to 1,247 (2014) and Sri Lanka, from 2,502 to 1,492 in the corresponding period. The number from Pakistan has been insignificant.
Some experts have come out with severe criticism of the country's institutes, stating that the decline shows clearly where our colleges stand in the world.
The Indian Institute of Science (IISc), which has been the only Indian institute to have featured in the top 100 colleges of the world, had just 25 full time foreign students in 2014. Usha Vijayaraghavan, IISc international cell chairperson, built a presentation on the measures and roadmap of the institute to attract international students. She said that IISc is doing collaborative work with prestigious global institutions, to invite global research work in the institute. She mentioned that the task at hand is highly challenging, and we surely have a very long way to go.
IIIT-B founder director S Sadagopan said that the government needs to understand the "soft power" associated with higher education. This cannot be quantified monetarily or any other criteria. Taking example of Dr. Manmohan Singh, he said that Dr Singh is an alumnus from Cambridge, passing out 55 years ago. But he still carries a soft corner for the university, and is its ambassador for life. Dr Sadagopan himself studied in the US 40 years ago, and still carries a soft corner for the country.
Pointing out a need for changing our treatment of foreign students, he said that the major reason for decline could be bad publicity that the country is receiving. The environment for international students must be made more conducive and friendly, so that their opinions become a point of publicity for next set of prospect students.
The bad publicity didn't seem to have an effect on the likes of Jose Antonio Borrero, a student at IIM-B in August. "Beyond the course that has been of great help, I just love India," he had said. "I've already interned in Mumbai and now I've asked my parents to join me after my course."