Growth in number of students from India to US continues to decline

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The number of Indian students going to the US for education is falling over the years, reports suggest.


According to the latest Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, the annual growth of Indian students to the US has been falling from 12.3 per cent in 2016-17 to 5.4 per cent in 2017-18 to 2.9 per cent in 2018-19. Second only to China for sending students outside for studies, India’s numbers to the US has grown merely from 186,267 in 2016-17 to 202,014 in 2018-19.



The ‘Early Warning Signals: Winners and Losers in the Global Race for Talent’ report by Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) has shown percentage of Indians sending their Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) scores to US business schools fell from 57 per cent in testing year 2014 to 45 per cent in testing year 2018. During the same period, percentage of Indian GMAT test takers sending their scores to Indian schools rose from 15 per cent to 19 per cent. The reports attribute the dwindling trend to lack of student-friendly policies and stringent visa norms in the US and more relaxed regulations by other competing destinations like Canada, Australia, Germany, and the UK.


Sample this: According to GMAC, over the past five years, Indian students have kept away from US institutions (from 54 per cent in 2014 to 39 per cent in 2018) and increasingly selected countries such as Canada (4.7 per cent to 12.2 per cent), France (2.4 per cent to 8.1 per cent), Germany (2.1 per cent to 4.4 per cent), the UK (6.6 per cent to 8.3 per cent), and Singapore (3.8 per cent to 4.9 per cent) over the same period as preferred destinations. According to GMAC Chairperson Bill Boulding, the council has over the past few years witnessed a significant dip in interest of students in some regions of the world, especially the US.


Boulding, in the report, states that policymakers should pay attention to why international students are no longer interested in these regions, as this is an early warning to economies that they are losing the race for talent.


“Changes in immigration policy, particularly as it relates to work permission post graduation, can make all the difference in how our economies develop. Even a change in rhetoric could have a major impact. Thus, we are suggesting some concrete steps governments can take to help foster the flow of talent and grow economies,” the report reads.


The data from prospective applicants, coupled with insights from business school deans, points to a few key factors responsible for the declining US figures. Prominent among these are the changes to H-1B visa cap, which has resulted in fewer job opportunities for international students upon graduation and uncertainty about their future in the US.


“Following the expiration in 2004 of the 195,000 cap, the number of H-1B visas now annually available has dipped to an adjusted cap of 85,000. Issued on a first-come, first-served basis, every year the demand for H-1B visas outweighs the supply. For instance, in 2019, 190,098 H-1B petitions were filed for 85,000 visas. For Indian students, the ability to work and potentially settle for the long term in the US is a primary reason for applying to the country’s business schools. Two-thirds agree that not being able to obtain a job in the US after graduation would prevent them from pursuing business school there,” the report states.


India’s overseas education providers, too, are facing the similar trends and anticipate further decline to the US in 2020. According to Rohit Sethi, director of ESS Global, destination break-up among students applying via the firm has changed in the past three years.


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