Presenting 2016 report card: Indian student’s preferred study destinations. And my projections for 2017.

For the purpose of this analysis, I am using statistics for “student visa granted during the year” and this is not to be confused with “students enrolled from a source nationality”.

I have, in my previous writings too, indicated that experts often confuse enrolled students with actual number of students who arrived in that country during that period. Some countries, especially USA, tends to release the enrolment statistics with a fair bit of fanfare and this gets compared with “student visa statistics” of other countries leading to baffling and often incorrect conclusions. I have even found Indian government reports confusing the enrolled student numbers as the number of students who left for US from India during that year.

The data that I present below are sourced from official statistics released by respective countries.

Report Card for 2016:








  1. The student numbers for Canada is an estimate for 2016 since the data available is till Q3 and I have estimated on that basis that for 2016 it should be in excess of 40000.
  2. Some countries release student data for July-June period while others may for October – September or for the calendar year (January-December). This should be borne in mind though for a comparison the above data should still be useful.

Projections for 2017:

The major destinations have experienced a few political changes and this is expected to have an impact on student interest during the year:


The election of President Donald Trump is possibly the single most important development that has not just an impact on US interest in the mind of International students but also has indirect impact on other destinations.

  • Reports of planned changes to H1B and also the OPT is to be effected. However, students are already considering other options. Primarily Canada and Australia are gaining and my estimate is that during 2017, the total number of F1 grants from India will not grow at the same pace as previous years. It might actually drop by 10%.  US will continue to remain a destination for high end research and scholarship students from India though.


UK’s attraction for Indian students continues to be affected. Brexit has added to the negativity.

  • Reports of Scotland pushing for PSW and greater autonomy is merely of academic interest at this time. It is not expected to be leading to any significant development during the coming months and certainly not before the coming Fall intake. There are also reports on UK and India agreeing on a Free Trade Agreement and also re-introduction of PSW. All this is in future and for 2017, I expect the UK numbers to remain around the same as last year. It has already bottomed out and thus we may experience a marginal increase too though that should not be surprising.


Canada has taken a welcoming position for international migrants especially the skilled workers. Statements from the Prime Minister has been well received in the media and there is an expectation that student numbers will continue to grow.

  • I am of the opinion that the current growth in student numbers is not happening in the right way. Most of the growth has been to colleges and agents report that close to 40-50% of the students switch institutions soon after reaching Canada. These are symptoms to be wary of. I strongly believe that the Universities need to be promoted more and Canada should to be projected as a quality destination on the basis of the quality of the Universities. Currently the student visa to Canada is merely a way to reach Canada for workers and future migrants and the student visa process has been relatively easy.


Along-with Canada, Australia is being touted as the country that is going to gain quality students who may move away from USA. Australia too has tried to position itself as a welcoming destination for STEM students.

  • We can expect that the final data for 2016-17 will show an increase of 20%. The visa process has streamlined and there is a further expectation for some numbers increasing for the VET sector (which has been greatly affected over the years).  The immigration system that has been focussed on certain skills is also being taken as an example by USA and thus likely to remain the way it has been.


New Zealand has tightened the student visas in recent months following various scams with the system. I too have blogged on this earlier.

  • The visa refusal rate for India currently is around 54% which is very high. This gives me a feeling that the final annual student numbers to NZ for 2016-17 will have a sharp decline. The NZ numbers from India are over reliant on Punjab (48%) and the media coverage of deportation of students (mostly from Hyderabad) have been a concern.

Impact of demonetisation: We should also bear in mind that there was some impact of demonetisation too during the period November to January. Visa applications got delayed due to the fact that banks were not able to process education loans at the same rate during the period. However overall student numbers for the full year should not be majorly affected due to this factor.

I welcome any #FactCheck emails on the above. As always with any of my blogs.



  1. Very good blog Ravi though I have some reservations:
    1) No doubt the majority of students going to Canada are for SPP Colleges, but the there is a considerable drop in changing institutions by students. This has resulted after the SPP Colleges have taken it quite seriously and removed many of their agents whose students were changing after reaching Canada. And the quality of students going to SPP Colleges is much better than what New Zealand and Australia were accepting for their VET Sector. This could be the reason that SPP Colleges program is still running and is quite successful. Visa criteria is soft on financials but tough on academic and IELTS.

    Australia is on rise and as anticipated by you would gain 20 % or more in the year 2017, but it has to stick to its current assessment system, which is doing quite well. And I hope the institutions keep a control on their greed for big numbers.

    On New Zealand I see some improvement, but they really need to work on their visa system as many times it is difficult to understand their way of assessment. So if they work on this their numbers could also go up.


    1. Excellent inputs Gulshan. Regarding Canada: I also believe that certain institutions are working with other institutions in their region to ensure that students don’t switch so easily on arrival. However the regulations need to be tightened on lines of Standard 7 of Australian ESOS. But am pleased if things are improving gradually. Canada will continue to experience increased student interest in 2017.

      Australia: There are no real changes planned with the processing (Policy changes) and thus the system will continue to deliver. Institutions will need to actually become more quality focussed. Now they will have greater number of quality students applying and thus they can be selective.

      There is an improvement with NZ since their visas have got tightened and there has also been some tightening of the institutions. I still feel that their total numbers will fall this year to what it was last year (July-June).


      1. Hi Ravi 🙂

        Writing from NZ now, at the Uni of Auckland and came across your blog on the immigration changes in Australia, then spent a happy half hour reading more of your posts.
        Our Indian student enrolments are well up this year – predominantly in postgraduate courses and off an admittedly low base. For us, our visa outcomes include very few refusals, but I suspect it is because the uni is attracting a different type of student than the majority coming to sub-bachelor programmes in other institutions.

        Cheers, Ainslie


        1. Ainslie: welcome back to my blog. The 2017 (Jan-March) student data out of India was shared with some of us and the numbers have fallen overall for sure. However the numbers for the Universities has been alright and gone up too for some. The visa success rate for the University bound students has been close to 95%. Contrasting this, the visa success rate for ITPs was about 65% and for PTEs was a poor 35-40%. The fall in student numbers for PTEs has been considerable leading to a fall in total student numbers.

          Thanks for your “half hour” with my thoughts and noted that it was “happy”.


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