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Why students travel abroad for higher education

By Piyush Kumar,

Every student aspires to enjoy a great lifestyle and build a career in their field of interest. To explore those opportunities and reach their true potential, students take the path of international education. As per the data issued by the Bureau of Immigration (BOI) the number of Indian students who departed India for higher education in the current year is over 133K. Overseas education only gains popularity despite the pandemic and other travel restrictions. The data by BOI showcasing that 2,59,655 in 2020 and 4,44,553 in 2021 went abroad for studies stands as a testimony to the same. The soaring count shows students’ global aspirations to attain a degree that can help them successfully launch a career powered by worldwide exposure and a rich network transcending borders.

Countries like the USA, Canada, and the UK have begun gaining more popularity since the pandemic because of their flexible student-friendly admission policies, visa regulations and vaccination guidelines. However, the journey of studying abroad encompasses different factors and decisions which students have to consider. Capturing the true essence of factors influencing students’ international education dreams, IDP Connect published a detailed report titled the “New Horizons” in October 2021. The research highlighted that demand for on-campus learning has remained strong throughout the pandemic, with 79 per cent of students opting for it. The study also revealed that students strongly consider migration incentives, post-study work rights and employment opportunities while choosing their study destination. Besides these, several other factors influence students’ choice of country and institutions. These include:

Multiple course options offered by world-class education institutions

Getting a degree from a well-reputed overseas institution equips students with quality education, valued and recognized in every corner of the world. These world-class institutions, which offer a well-structured open curriculum, are ranked among the top institutions per QS and Times Higher Education. Graduates from these institutions are taught by the best faculty members and have access to rich global resources. Hence, these students are likely to have better prospects in their professional journey. Such institutions with more fluid subject combination policies allow students interested in literature to even study mathematics as their major. This progressive educational approach transforms students’ lives personally and professionally and further helps them develop interpersonal skills such as confidence, self-awareness, analytical thinking, and problem-solving. Studying in such institutions makes students more competent and employable compared to the rest. Besides studying in a world-class education institution, students look forward to the availability of specialization in the courses of their interest. Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Marketing, Cybersecurity, Ethical Hacking and Ecotechnology are some of the top current choices students prefer. A recent study commissioned by Western Union to NielsenIQ, titled “Education Overseas–An Evolving Journey”, highlights that 52% of Indian students have shown an inclination to study abroad to pursue specialized courses over traditional generalized education.

Future career opportunities

One of the major reasons students opt for international education is the availability of wide career and employment opportunities. For instance, Canada offers Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP), the United States provides the Optional Training Program (OPT) and Britain New Graduate Pathway (GR). These pathways offer good placement opportunities to students after completing their post-graduation. It is a major attraction and the most popular means for Indian students to advance their careers.

Students are eager to study in the first world nations like the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia. These countries encourage the culture of part-time jobs while studying. It provides students not only the opportunity to explore their areas of interest, talents, and strengths but also financial independence, enabling them to learn both on the job and along the path to what it takes to get a job done. International institutions also have internships and training as an essential part of their curriculum, which provides a better understanding of various work-related elements and helps students enhance their professional and social skills. As per a study carried out by Masters Union, 45% of the students view ‘self-dependence’ and being able to ‘live life on their own terms’ as key motivators to explore international learning opportunities.

international exposure

Students with international exposure gain an edge over the rest in this highly competitive environment. Studying abroad also introduces students to new cultures, diversity, languages, and geographies, making them adaptive to different surroundings. It helps them develop sensitivity towards other cultures while working across borders. Studying in an international environment also prepares students to become independent in managing and solving their problems independently. They learn to handle all elements of their life, be it finance, health, social life, work-life, or education. This, in turn, also helps to increase their acumen and develop a global perspective towards modern-day challenges of career and life in general and pushes them to come up with innovative solutions.

Networking and quality of life

The experience and richness of studying abroad accentuate further in life, allowing students to imbibe excellent skills and build meaningful connections, a solid professional network, and long-lasting friendships. Besides studying together, interning, training, attending annual events, and field trips bring many people together from different backgrounds. It helps them in their overall growth both personally as well as professionally. Beyond this, the impact of world-class healthcare facilities, good education infrastructure, advanced educational technology, and freedom of choice in terms of course subjects as well as career routes cannot be overstated.

The most enterprising feature of the international education system is the value it places on understanding individual student characteristics. It offers them differentiated programs accordingly to meet their needs depending on their talents and interests, allowing even the seemingly disadvantaged students the chance to transform their academic and career trajectory. Hence to be ahead of the game in the current era of cut-throat competition, students opt for specialized courses backed by personalized learning methodologies that international education is known for.

(The author is Regional Director, South Asia, and Mauritius, IDP Education. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the

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