When it comes to numbers, India is certainly one of the most impressive countries. It has a population of almost 1.25 billion people and – after more than 7 per cent growth in gross domestic profit (GDP) each year for the past 10 years – it is the third largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP). By 2030, the number of urban, middleclass households in India is expected to reach 91 million (up from 26 million currently).
Australian education providers have been visiting India and promoting Australia as a study destination for almost 20 years. The Australian market in India has grown tremendously: from 5,900 students in 2003 to 54,610 students in 2009.
The market took a massive hit with the so-called ‘Indian student crisis’ in 2009-10, but numbers are again on the way up from 5,519 in 2012 to more than 9,000 students in 2013. The way things are, the Indian market for international education in Australia will continue to grow.
Let me try and explain the current scenario and factors that affect students from India.
Bank education loans
Most students who choose Australia as a study destination opt for an education loan to fund their tuition fees and living expenses. Tuition fees currently average A$25,000 (₹14,50,000) per year and living expenses are around A$18,000 (₹10,44,000) each year. A typical Australian bachelor degree requires four years of study or two years for a master degree.
Against the Australian dollar, the Indian Rupee (₹) has depreciated from ₹37 in 2008 to ₹58 currently. Tuition fees, on the other hand, have increased from A$18,500 in 2008 to A$25,000. In the last five years, depreciation is approximately 80 per cent and the fees have increased approximately 30 per cent.
As per the Reserve Bank of India guidelines, students can opt for a maximum education loan of ₹20,00,000 (A$33,900), which is subject to repayment capacity. This does not even cover the first year of tuition fees and living expenses. What’s more, it hasn’t been amended in the last 15 years.
The Association of Australian Education Representatives in India (AAERI) – the peak body of Indian-based representatives of Australian universities – is strongly lobbying the Indian Ministry of Finance to re-look at the current policy and increase the limit to a minimum of ₹30,00,000 (A$51,000) per year.
Visa Grant Rates
From 1 April 2013 to 30 June 2013 the grant rate for offshore (in India) student visa applications was 83.5% up from 51.7% in the same quarter in the previous year (1 April 2012 – 30 June 2012)
Student visa applications granted between 1 July 2012 and 30 June 2013
Indian Citizen (Offshore): 9383
Indian Citizen (Onshore): 15412
Source: Student visa program quarterly report – Quarter ending at 30 June 2013, Department of Immigration and Citizenship
Causes for concern
Is TAFE the neglected child?
TAFE is one of the gems of Australia’s education system, but it has been treated like a neglected child. It has been 10 years since efforts were made to export it to India, but as yet there hasn’t been a successful business model to run collaborative TAFE institutes. India needs more than 11 million vocational skilled professionals per year over the next 15 years, but in the absence of any professional skills training institutes both countries are at a loss.
If current data is anything to go by, the TAFE and non-Government VET sector is bleeding badly. According to the DIAC website, the total number of lodgements under the 572 visa category for India and Nepal is 1,122. This includes 5 per cent lodged offshore and 20 per cent that include a spouse visa. This leaves only 850 visa approvals remaining. India accounts for 80 per cent of these, which is approximately 600 approvals for 572 category visas (TAFE and non-Government VET). There is clearly a case for access to streamlined visa processing (SVP).
Packaged offers with higher education courses are also cause for concern. After obtaining packaged offers, I have seen a few students who eventually change education providers on completion of their diploma course. Under non-streamlined visa processing, they would in fact never have been granted a visa.
Another concern is the academic progress requirements of English language courses to commence the main course. If a student fails to achieve the required grades and is unable to commence their main course, he/she may wish to change education provider. Under non-streamlined visa processing, they would not have gained any visa access.
The way forward
The Indian market is currently driven by the following key factors:
Against the US dollar, the Indian Rupee has significantly depreciated by 17 per cent in the last six weeks: from ₹55, it is now sitting at ₹65 to the US dollar. Chances are, the Indian rupee will depreciate even further. This creates insecurity in the minds of the Indian students and their families seeking greener pastures. This is a driving force and the pull factor for increasing marketshare of Australian education in India.
The opportunity to find work after study clearly attracts many students. From 2004–2009, international students were often able to find work after study and this had a significant effect on Australia’s student numbers. Canada has offered post-study work since 2008 and its numbers are growing significantly from 2,600 students in 2007 to 13,000 students in 2012.
The big question is, can Australian education providers rely on Government-led ‘post-study work arrangements’ to increase marketshare? Frankly speaking, if post-study work arrangements are stopped today, Australian numbers could fall by approximately 4,000 students a year – this is a 100 per cent decline.
If Australia wants to grow without the blessings of post-study work arrangements, it will need to break down the wall between international offices and careers and employment departments. I’m not suggesting students should have guaranteed jobs, but careers departments would do well to internationalise their focus. They could forge better relationships and connections with Indian companies or other offshore companies to assist students in their search for employment opportunities.
I have seen careers departments at American universities start contacting students about careers fairs and job placements from their first day of enrolment. Indian education providers are similarly proactive with placing their students, which is highly attractive.
The opportunities for careers departments are endless. Some of these include:
- Career fairs showcasing Indian companies in Australia and India.
- Circulating job announcements from Indian companies to international students studying in Australia.
- Promoting internships with Indian companies for the international students in Australia.
- Enhancing connections with various Indian Chambers of Commerce on the employment scenario.
- Inviting Indian entrepreneurs to inspire students as guest speakers.
There is a growing need to internationalise careers and employment services. If Australian education providers can offer world class careers services, they will have a much greater edge in their promotions and marketing. For a consistent growth that is not dependent on Government-led policy, this is the way forward.