India ranks the second-largest source of international students, after China, with around 1.1 million Indian students studying abroad. The most favorite destinations for students willing to study abroad are the United States, Canada, Europe, Germany, and Britain.
Indian students are left perplexed on the steps to be taken regarding applications abroad because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. There is anxiety concerning the changing quarantine stipulations across the world. Many students were reported to be stuck in foreign countries without food or accommodations because the universities were ordered to be closed.
The fear of no clarity ahead has instilled a sense of rethinking in many students. The outbreak of COVID-19 has led Indian students to rethink their plans for studying abroad. According to a report, Indian students, particularly from the non-STEM backgrounds, i.e., the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics areas, are reconsidering their plans to pursue higher education abroad.
Delays in the plan of study abroad
There are many instances of delaying rather than canceling the plans of study abroad by a semester, a year, or so. Many universities are yet to reveal their operational plans by September. Reports suggest that higher education institutions are likely to adopt e-learning programs for students across the world, as this seems to turn out the most feasible solution in current times. However, the students are unsure about the usefulness in terms of the value of such online classes.
Apart from academic knowledge, one of the primary reasons for deciding to invest in education in a foreign university is the on-campus experience. The opportunity to have a conversation with your professor, to sit in class and have discussions, to interact with other students and colleagues, libraries, extra-curricular activities, and on-campus infrastructure experiences plays an integral part in building the personality of the student while studying abroad. Now, if the platform is shifted to an online one and the universities do not come up with a full proof plan of operations soon, it will be difficult for the students to make decisions with regards to the admission or deferrals.
Dropout chances due to online classes
Sumeet Jain, the co-founder of a Delhi-based consultancy firm for education abroad Yocket, predicted that there would be a huge dropout of students in the universities abroad if the universities are offering online classes without reducing the fees. It is quite simple that students are facing a financial crisis during this pandemic and are unsure about their finances. In this state of uncertainty, they might not take the risk of loans for classes online. Moreover, they are deprived of all the on-campus facilities and exposure. This is quite a drawback itself.
The British Council survey carried out in April, revealed that around 43% of students are not likely to cancel their plans of study abroad and around 38% are likely to cancel or delay their plans. The canceling percentage is lower than the delaying percentage. Although, the future will unfold the certainty.
Uncertainty in decision making
A major question with study abroad is whether, by September, the universities will offer online classes or open physical enrolments.
This question leads to another uncertainty, that if the classes are physical, then whether the students will get a visa on time to be able to travel abroad to the chosen university. Due to the foreign travel restrictions during the lockdown, the visa process has been heavily impacted. There have been added requirements relating the medical clearances and quarantine issues. This seems to make the visa applications and approval difficult and extensive.
Another factor is that India’s High School Board examinations were postponed. There is still confusion concerning the date of the result. In such a situation, the students willing to study Bachelor’s abroad cannot present their results for applications abroad.
The economic slowdown is another reason behind the uncertainty in decision making for study abroad. Many students used to work while studying to gain work experience as well as to support their finances. However, during this pandemic, when people are losing their jobs, there is a remote chance of getting a new one.
Avneesh Sharma, engineering graduated from Jaipur, Rajasthan, said that he was planning to go to Australia for his master’s degree, which is dismissed due to the pandemic. He also expressed his worry that he is not sure whether he’ll be able to get a job even after graduation as the countries across the world will see a slowdown in terms of economy. There will be raised unemployment and job losses all over the world.
Impact on Indian universities
The crises have hit harder on the western countries harder, and while the situations do not seem to get normal in few years to come now, this has also hit the funding of the universities. Moreover, it seems that a section of students from East Asia is not comfortable to be willing to invest their time and money amidst this confusion of class arrangements risking lives in uncertainty. Generally, a pandemic is followed by depression in the country. There are chances that the students will rather invest in Indian Universities in this situation of the financial crisis, and the chances of demand for domestic universities are likely to rise.
According to Professor Saikat Majumdar, one has considered the country and its situation before thinking of accepting offers. For instance, New Zealand has managed the crisis very well, and surely the universities there must be offering better facilities for students. However, the United States is currently in a bad state. Also, one has to see what the universities are offering. If the universities are providing a complete online course without slashing the fees, then students will surely not opt for that, simply because of deprivation of complete on-campus experience at a complete cost.
The concerns regarding travel, accommodation, and visas are still unclear. These will depend upon what the situation demands and the government’s reforms.