Rural Indians join rush to study abroad as prospects dim at home

AMBALA / SYDNEY / TORONTO: When 19-year-old Sachin failed to get the grades needed to enter a good university in India, his father, a small shop owner, took out a loan and dug deep into the family savings. to help you get a Canada Student Visa.
2 million rupees ($25,035) that they collected to cover the cost of learning English provided by Western Overseas, one of dozens of visa consulting firms in Ambalaabout 250 km from the capital New Delhi, promises a better life through studying abroad.
“My dream is to settle abroad because I don’t see a future in India,” said Sachin, who uses only one name. Now he plans to fly to Canada where he hopes to complete a two-year diploma in business management and eventually win a longer working visa.
While India’s middle class has for decades sought better prospects in other countries, worsening economic conditions are forcing families from poorer rural areas like Sachin’s to invest. adults to establish new lives for their children abroad.
Sachin said two of his friends currently in Canada earn about C$1,200 (US$918) a month through part-time work while studying for their degrees.
With many countries now lifting Covid restrictions, the number of Indian students will go to places like USA, Canada, AustraliaThe UK, Ireland and New Zealand are close to a million people at the start of 2022, nearly double their pre-pandemic levels, according to government and industry estimates.
Consulting firms such as Western Overseas offer coaching for English proficiency tests, course selection services, visa application processing, travel and even part-time job placement. time.
In Sydney, Catriona Jackson, chief executive of Australian University, said more than 76,000 Indian students are currently studying in Australia, which is expected to accelerate after both countries sign a bilateral trade agreement in this year.
More people are signing up for short courses in Canada and Australia due to increasingly bleak job prospects back home and as Western governments relax immigration requirements to fill university vacancies. and jobs.
The overseas education market is estimated to more than double to $80 billion by 2024 from about $30 billion, according to a 2021 report from Red Seer, a consulting firm, as global income and aspirations of the middle class increased.
Visa consultants say the rising cost of private education and declining job opportunities in the public and manufacturing sectors in India have forced thousands of families to mortgage property or take out a bank loan to finance their education. study abroad.
The Indian rupee hasn’t even dropped 7% this year which has deterred families from waiving fees.
“The return on investment is very, very good,” said Piyush Kumar, IDP Education South Asia Director.
The Melbourne-based company sends Indian students to English-speaking countries including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. The company plans to open 27 offices in small towns across India this year, encouraged by enrollments that have increased by more than 90% after two years of the pandemic, he said.
Brilliant prospects
Some foreign universities and their local partners are holding education fairs in expensive five-star hotels and through virtual sessions in small towns to engage students.
At one such event, more than 500 students recently gathered to explore opportunities with more than 40 universities from Australia and Canada at a luxury hotel in Chandigarh, about 40 kilometers from Ambala.
Gagandeep Singh, a small businessman from the nearby town of Dera Bassi, accompanied his daughter, who had received offers from several Australian universities.
Jashandeep Kaur, Singh’s daughter, said: “I attended the University of Canberra where my sister graduated with a Master of Pharmacy degree,” said Jashandeep Kaur, Singh’s daughter, for women’s safety and development. Career aspirations were her main considerations.
Improved internet access in recent years has allowed visa consulting firms to reach new markets in rural areas, in addition to traditional advertising channels.
“We publish our success stories on Facebook and other platforms,” said Bhupesh Sharma, marketing director of Western Overseas.
Pradeep Baliyan, the company’s founder, said: “We aim to send around 5,000 students abroad this year, adding that they have also opened branches in Australia and Canada offering job placement services. do.
With more than 300 million students in school and an increasing number seeking higher education, India is struggling to provide enough college grades and jobs for its youth.
The outlook for women is particularly bleak, with a participation rate of just 25%, the lowest of any major economy. That, coupled with the removal of millions of paid jobs over the past few years, has driven many Indians out.
Pull factor
Indeed, many Western countries are unable to reopen quickly enough after two painful years as pandemic travel restrictions starve their foreign worker economies and universities charge completely for living. international member.
In particular, the continued absence of Chinese students, coupled with Beijing’s strict no-COVID border policy still in place, has made Indian students more important and increased competition in the field. global education on tuition fees.
Rahul Oswal, founder of consulting firm Wisdom Overseas, said: “The ease of securing permanent residency has become a major attraction for Indian students flocking to Canada.
Compared to the UK and US, Canada’s graduate work and residency programs are much more flexible, he added.
Canadian universities are partnering with international consulting organizations such as ApplyBoard and IDP to tap into India’s booming domestic demand for foreign education.
“We have partnerships with universities,” said David Tubbs, director of marketing communications at ApplyBoard, which runs an online platform for recruiting international students.
These agencies hold about eight to 10 fairs a year, including one large conference for the busy September admissions and one in May, he said. A recent recruitment seminar in New Delhi attracted more than 1,100 participants.
According to ApplyBoard, Canadian academic institutions are more affordable than those of the UK, Australia and the US. Tubbs says the annual cost of Canadian international undergraduate tuition is C$32,019, while the average graduate tuition is C$19,252, Tubbs said.
No more iron rice bowls
Despite the promises, the path to a new life in the West is neither easy nor guaranteed.
Many visas are now stuck in places like Australia as immigration officials struggle to deal with backlogs made during the pandemic.
The cost of studying and living in countries like Canada, Australia and the United States is also very high for lower income Indians.
“It’s a huge amount, paying three times what a domestic student would pay is a big problem for us, especially when it’s converted into Indian currency,” he said. Nitika Mishraa student studying broadcasting at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario.
However, even with the rupee at a record low, it is a risk many Indians are still willing to take.
Each year, Ambala, a British colonial military state, often attracts hundreds of young men into the army with the prospect of lifelong employment.
However, recent amendments to India’s armed forces recruitment program have slashed entitlements and tenure, downgrading one of the few avenues for social mobility in the country 1.4 billion people.
That sparked violent protests in several places in June and has forced thousands of people to reconsider their career paths.
Vijay Chauhan, 18, who attended an English class at Western Overseas, where Sachin also got a visa, said: “I prepared for two years and appeared in a written test to join the army. preparation.
“There is no choice but to leave India.”

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