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Why Indian students are migrating abroad for their education?

The coronavirus pandemic exposed India’s crumbling healthcare system and it didn’t go well with some of India’s affluent students. They have now started to move abroad for their education.

As of now, India has the second highest number of students studying overseas. They are mostly from affluent and well-to-do families. Only China has a higher number of students migrating elsewhere.

In 2020, there were more than 18 million people living abroad. After the pandemic exposed India’s frail healthcare and education system, that number has started increasing at a higher rate. Some countries like UK and Canada have also eased their Visa restrictions making it easier for Indian students to migrate. There are even policies which help students in finding a job post college.

Another factor contributing to this sudden brain drain is because a lot of students avoided going abroad in 2020 because of the pandemic. According to a survey conducted by consultancy platform Leverage Edu, as many as 94% more students are willing to shift abroad in 2021 as compared to 2020.

UK – the preferred destination

Out of the students surveyed, 75% chose UK as their preferred destination. Some students who were earlier planning to study in Australia or USA changed their preference to UK in 2021. If you compare this data from the one available in 2018, you’ll realize that USA has lost some market share. Earlier, 1 in 3 students wanted to go to USA.

According to data published by Universities & Colleges Admissions Service, there has been a 30% rise in undergraduate applications to UK institutions from Indian students. Their policy now allows students to work 2-3 years post completing their course.

Other than UK, there has also been a spike in students wanting to go to Canada. Over 1 lakh students applied for Canadian education from January 2021 to April 2021.

What do people want to study?

When it comes to courses, business management, engineering and data science rule the roost with most students opting for these courses. According to Akshay Chaturvedi, founder of Leverage Edu, a movie like 3 Idiots played a huge part in telling people that they should do what they like. “People are now choosing to do what they’re good at instead of following the herd. We are getting to a place where people are saying that if I am doing something that I am good at, I want to be in a country which is the right country. If I want to be in the automobile industry, I need to go to Germany. If I want to be in fashion, I need to be in Paris. It’s the capital of fashion across the entire world. If I want to be in sports management, I need to be in UK or Australia,” he said in a panel discussion on NDTV’s FYI.

International universities offer a more flexible program where students can get to choose between several different subjects with ease. They can do a major in Economics and also do something else parallelly.

Even non-students citizens are migrating

A lot of high-heeled citizens are migrating abroad post the pandemic and the trend is not restricted to students. A report by the Global Wealth Migration Review revealed that 5,000 millionaires (or 2% of India’s high net worth individuals) shifted base to another country in 2020 alone.

In an interview with PTI, Mohit Lal revealed the benefits of opting for St Kitts and Nevis’ citizenship. “It has greatly helped how I conduct my business. I no longer need to apply for a visa and wait for an answer for weeks. My overall impression of St Kitts and Nevis has been overwhelmingly positive. The people are friendly with a great energy and there is always some activity being worked on. It’s a beautiful place to live,” he said.

The exit of intelligent students and high taxpayers is certainly not good news for the country. If we want to be a global force, we cannot afford to let so many people go abroad. Some people may argue that Indians are going abroad to help us conquer the world. That’s a rich assumption considering most people don’t come back and even opt for foreign citizenship.

A warning

A lot of scams take place in the name of foreign education and if you are a student, you must be very careful before investing anywhere. Do proper research and never try to cheat the system. A few weeks back, we had done a story about a man embroiled in immigration fraud in the US. You may go there for education but you may get involved in a crime. Therefore, it’s important to play it safe always.


1. Why More And More Indians Are Choosing To Study Abroad? | FYI (NDTV)

2. Indian Millionaires Are Investing in Second Citizenship and Moving Abroad (News18)

3. ‘Fight or flight’: Indians mull moving abroad amid COVID crisis (Al Jazeera)

*Some quotes have been edited for brevity.

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