International Education’s India 2012 Report Card and forecast for 2013: Market shrinking and 10,000 is the new “fee paying student” target.

Each year, I share a snapshot for the total numbers that went out to US, UK, Australian, Canada and NZ from India and the trends that can define the year (or years) ahead. Firstly, some clear reminders…

  • Total student numbers that I refer to, are the total numbers of “fresh” student visas that are issued by a country to Indian students.
  • When I mention “genuine” students, I mean those who are going to be living and studying in the destination country and will abide by all expectations from a student. They may have aspirations post the program that entitles them to stay on further but while as a student, they shall remain genuinely enrolled. The not-so-genuine student is one that uses a student visa to reach the destination but thereafter has no intention to study and will look for other loopholes to simply stay on.

In this blog, I talk more from the perspective of total student numbers and who were granted visa by the “honourable” visa regimes.

USA: Forget the hype around the IIE released enrolment statistics that givea all of us, an impression that 100,000 Indian students reach US each year. This is largely playing with the data available and honestly a little faulty for any planning purpose. The reality is that the total number of visas issued to Indian students based in India to study in the US, has remained between 20,000 to 30,000 in the last several years. US gives out annual numbers of countrywide visa numbers and in various categories and this can be found on and the more precise information on 2012 can be found on this link. In 2012, the total number of F1 (not including F2 which is for dependents of F1) category visa had fallen to 23,446. Now we need to remember that rough estimates indicate that at-least half of the total number of Indian students choose US because of the significant financial aid or scholarship that they can get. Hence, using a very rough estimate, I am of the opinion that the total number of fee-paying Indian students choosing to study in the USA will be around 10,000 at the maximum. Having stated the numbers, the fall or increase for US has not been too significant and remains +-10%. This is an indication of the country being a destination primarily due to the education that it offers.

  • Prediction for 2013:Numbers of Indian students proceeding to US will remain around 24000. However newspapers will continue to highlight the enrolment statistics that will show India as the No.2 to China as a source for international students and will highlight the figure of 100000. The gradually strengthening US dollar may make it a little more expensive for Indian students and considering that the bulk of the students are scholarship driven to US, I estimate that about 10,000 fee paying students will enter USA. One more interesting trend is an increase in the undergraduate students from a new crop of IB and international schools who may consider US since options within India for them are going to be limited due to a clear mis-match to the Indian academic calendar and also the preparedness for the Indian admissions. The orientation of such schools is geared towards an under-graduation in the USA anyways.

United Kingdom: UK has been experiencing a fall in student numbers over the last few years. One of the statistics that I have recently seen indicates that in 2012 the total number of students who chose to study in the UK during 2012 fell by about 50% to 15097. Now this is a significant fall indeed and considering that the numbers have been falling over the past two years. However this number is still higher than what most predicted. What should concern UK though is that the trends in 2013 indicate that we are looking at a continuing slide in student numbers to UK. The sentiments are extremely negative resulting from the changes with regards to the post-study-work that the UK has initiated predominantly due to politically rhetoric position of the Cameron government and despite sane advise of the UniversitiesUK and British Council. More detailed statistics on UK can be found on this link.

  • Prediction for 2013:There is nothing to brake the trend and I estimate that the fall in student numbers during 2013 will be close to a further 30% and hence we can even see the total number of students seeking UK during 2013 to decline to about 10,000 or even marginally lower. The market will remain limited to the metropolitan cities within India. Further, there is an ongoing issue over the validity of one year Master degrees and while there is a talk within India on the extension of regular Honours Bachelor degrees to 4 years, the 3 years Engineering Bachelors that English Universities offer is also being questioned. The most highlighted reason for the decline in student numbers continues to be abolition of Post Study Work. I am predicting that UK will lose its position of No. 2 choice for Indian students and we may see it as No.4 during the year.

Canada: Canada has taken the third spot in student numbers from India. Once again I am not referring to the student numbers as “genuine student numbers”. Large proportion of the students choosing to study in Canada have chosen to join the various colleges and for the diploma program and solely for migration aspirations. Having said the same, the total student numbers to Canada touched reportedly 13000 for 2012. This is far more than what Canadian education system can handle. The impact of easier entry into Canada over the last two years is beginning to take toll and the Government too has become alert to this and some changes are in anvil. Canada continues to be an attractive destination for students to study and live on. However some checks and integrity measures with regards to grant of student visas may mean a decline in 2013. (Recently Canadian High Commission through its FB page endorsed the article on the link ) The trends of increase for Canada can be found on this link.

  • Prediction for 2013: Students from North and West India in particular continue to be sold to Canada as a destination largely by “migration cum education agents”. Once again solely due to the migration pathway that the education in Canada offers. Canada has experienced a significant growth in student numbers but now I am predicting a slight correction. 2013 will be a decisive year for Canada and if it can make some important corrections: it can promote its finer institutions and screen the student applications a little better. I am expecting the student numbers to drop to about 10,000 during this year. This is not a bad thing though. The student numbers to Universities should grow a little too at the same time. However one of the biggest impediments for the growth of student numbers for the Universities is that the key Universities are still traditional in their approach and hence have not yet embraced the engagement of education counsellors/agents in markets such as India and so clearly unlike their competitors.

New Zealand: Believe it or not, NZ student numbers overtook Australia too as a destination for Indian students two years ago. However, like Canada, the prime motivation for large number of so-called students was migration and these students had chosen to do diploma or lower cost programs primarily with the polytechnics or private providers. In a way NZ was absorbing a number of students who could not make it to Australia at this time. The number of students to the Universities was very low even in 2012. The total student numbers however from India for 2011-12 was 5550 though there are indications of it declining. The reasons for this can be several including the 1)Christchurch earthquake, 2)High NZ Dollar, 3)Poor market development activities on part of the Universities, 4)Increasing student numbers for Australia as there is evidence that trends between the two countries are inversely linked. Detailed statistics on NZ numbers can be found on this link.

  • Prediction for 2013: There is a need for NZ to increase its student numbers for the Universities. The various sectors(Universities, Polytechnics and Private Providers) within NZ seem to be working on their own independent strategies. And most of the strategies are knee-jerk reactions anyways. Quality of student numbers needs to improve and that can only happen through a determined effort to promote NZ as a destination for quality students and not just for those who want an easy way to migrate. Post Study Work and Settlement is indeed a major USP for NZ and so in some ways it is similar to Canada. However, the country needs to recognise it as an USP and link it more to the degree and postgraduate students than to the undergraduate general diplomas. Copying strategies of UK and Australia will not help and it needs to look more towards Canada as they compete directly. I am predicting that the market from India will continue to decline by 20% and may be below 5000 during 2013 and the proportion of students to private colleges and polytechnics will continue to be predominant though there is an effort to bring about a balance. However no strategy remains the bother.

Australia: The country that had become the prime destination and had even eclipsed US and UK in 2008-09, crashed out in 2009-10 due to a combination of factors including security concerns of that time, changed immigration norms, heightened student visa hurdles and the boom towards UK of that period. However since the announcement of reforms in 2011-2012, the destination has re-positioned itself away from being a vocational education provider to a degree student magnet. It has also introduced a post study work opportunity for international students, ironically at the same time when UK has withdrawn the same. The only factor that continues to slow the growth is the high Australian dollar. The student numbers to Australia from India and lodged offshore during 2011-2012 was 5519. This data is for July 2011 to June 2012 and bulk of the there has been a steeper growth thereafter in interest for Australia primarily due to increased visa approval rate as a result of SVP measures for degree students. The visa statistics can be found on this link.

  • Prediction for 2013: Australian SVP mechanism has worked in reversing the sentiments and even though the total visa applications has declined over last year marginally, the total number of visa grants has increased significantly and we can expect that in 2013, the total number of Indian students travelling out to Australia will be around 10,000. Australia has released the 9 month data for July 2012 and March 2013 and this, by itself has gone past the full year numbers for 2011-2012. This is no way near the 60,000 that entered a few years ago but this 10,000 is largely to the Higher Education Sector as compared to the earlier time when most would have entered the vocational sector. There are reports that the Australian dollar which has been very high and an impediment could also see a correction soon. Post Study Work and SVP are the two key drivers enabling higher student visa numbers. However, I am of the opinion that the country needs to fine tune the SVP a little as there is evidence that it is being abused and some non-genuine are also entering on the basis of fraudulent documents. Overall, it is a growth phase for Australia this year.

Summary: Expect the total number of Indian students entering US, UK, Australia, Canada and NZ during the year to be about 60,000. This is certainly lower to what India has been sending out in the past. Hence, I summarise that the Indian market has shrunk a fair bit in the recent years. Possibly due to more options within India. Possibly due to higher costs for overseas study. Possibly due to restricted reach of the Indian education loan. Possibly because of negativity related to recessionary impact world-wide. OR POSSIBLY BECAUSE WHAT WE SAW EARLIER AS STUDENTS WERE ONLY SO-CALLED STUDENTS.


    1. Australia is the only country that will possibly grow from India as a destination in 2013. However not sure if all students will be “genuine” since SVP clearly is being abused too. I believe that institutions have a role to play in ensuring that the growth continues. Short term temptations may mean short-cuts on part of some providers in terms of taking onus for the submitted documents. Further we need to also roll out the SVP to TAFE and Private providers but then even more caution is required… Self-regulation is the key.


        1. Venu, the agents are an extension of the institution. The agent kept his eyes shut to the documents provided by the student and the institution may not be vigilant enough and may also keep their eyes shut since what they need are student numbers. This is not true for all the providers but there are providers and their business partnering franchised campuses who need to go beyond short term interests… You come from Hyderabad and you can say if there is any growth in the document fraud once again or not…


          1. I am sure DIAC will audit the files very carefully of visas granted taken from the institutions, just the way they did with evisa files, and they will get an answer. But, it is always better if the checking s are done at the visa office rather than the agent or institution. Waste of time playing blame game.


          2. I like what you said Ravi – Agents are extensions of Institutes, so its the institutes that are responsible ……


  1. My understanding re. so called recent abuses of the SVP in Australia made good headlines but the university must give a “letter of release” to the student, and/or student only paying a semester of fees. Personally think universities must be more responsible in managing or monitoring students through regular feedback, this would ensure integrity in the system, quality feedback (that can inform marketing) and student welfare.

    Regarding student “statistics”, when many in society are statistically illiterate, the data can be distorted and confused (much like the politically poisonous population data) e.g. enrolments. commencements etc. This aids publicly listed companies or those with private (equity) shareholders whereby numbers can be exagerrated…. which then leads to share prices appearing more attractive (than the real numbers behind)…..


    1. I know that The Australian printed an article that indicated (quoting some unnamed agents) that students are using the SVP and moving to inferior institutions. I AM NOT REFERRING TO THIS when I talk of abuse. What I mean is that under the earlier system, the visa office got to see the financial documents and so could do the checks for genuineness. Now those documents are being submitted to the Universities and Universities have no mechanism to check the genuine-ness of those. The visa office can only verify what they see. Hence more students are sneaking in using fake loan letters where no disbursement has to be shown in some cases. Also there are fake income documents. Now this is not happening everywhere but certainly there are some places where it is most definitely a development.


  2. Hi Ravi,
    Congratulations on building a very successful Education Agency and Advisory institution.
    Could you please share how one can become an Education Agent? What is the process involved in getting registered as Education Agent with universities in different countries?
    Thanks, Vijay.


    1. Process is to develop an awareness and knowledge on a destination. Write to institutions with your background. Seek membership of AAERI ( for Australia), of NZSA (for NZ), of AIRC (for US) and certainly collaborate with British Council. It takes years to build a good consultancy and business depends on successful word of mouth.


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