Modi-Obama bonhomie sees 30% jump in Indian students going to US

New Delhi,Kanchan Srivastava: Prime minister Narendra Modi and US president Barack Obama’s warm personal ties have helped America’s higher education sector growing at extraordinary rate in last one year. Number of Indian students going to the United States has gone up by a whopping 29.4 per cent within a year, compared to 6% previous year following three years of consistent decline, reveals the latest ‘Open Doors Report’ which is being released in the US Monday.

Obama and Modi

Nearly 1.33 lakh students are studying in various US universities at undergraduate and postgraduate levels at present compared to only 1.02 lakh students a year ago. However, only 4,588 US students came to India in 2013-14 (4.7% rise over the previous year), and that too for short-term and semester-long courses, says the report. Last time the US witnessed a comparable growth rate of Indian students (29%) was in 2000-01 when the number of Indian students exceeded 50,000 for the first time. That time too the BJP government was in power in India with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the prime minister.

The Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange is published annually by the Institute of International Education in partnership with the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. “While China remains the top country of origin of international students in the US, increasing by 11 per cent to 3,04,040, India’s growth outpaced China’s this year, with students from India increasing by 29.4 perc ent to a record high of 1,32,888. This is the highest rate of growth for Indian students in the history of the Open Doors project, which spans back to 1954/55,” reads the report. Overall, US saw a rise of 10% in international students in 2014-15 with 9.74 lakh students from various countries studying in its univarsities.

International expert on politics give credit of this steep rise to improvement in diplomatic relations between India and US recently due to personal cordial relations between the two state heads. Modi’s visit to the US in September 2014 generated enough euphoria in India and this was followed up by Obama, who became the first American president to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi in January 2015. In a joint presser in Delhi, Modi’s address to Obama as “Barack” led to interesting discussion. “India and US have had conflicting views in issues related trade, climate change and foreign policy for years. Now on a range of issues, such as the rise of China, the future of Afghanistan and international terrorism, New Delhi and Washington are increasingly on the same page,” said a professor of Pune University. Besides, a strong Indian rupee, reviving global economy and increased efforts of US varsities in wooing Indian students are also major factors behind this jump, say experts.

“The apprehensions and negative sentiments are changing now. Moreover, US varsities have gained on a declining interest of Indians for UK universities in last three years mainly due to introduction of stricter visa norms by the UK government,” says an overseas education expert. Some academicians, however, blamed the slow pace of the Modi government in the most crucial sector behind this “exodus” of youngsters towards US. “Students are unable to see ‘Ache din’ in the higher education sector which suffers from rot since years. Expansion of quality university education is the need of the hour or else we would continue losing out higher number of bright brains to the West along with foreign reserve,” said a professor of Mumbai University.

An MHRD official defends, “We are working on a new education policy which aims to address the brain drain as well.”

Box 1
Head: Figure it out
Number of Indian students in US
% change from the previous year
+ 6.1%
(Source: Open Doors report 2014-15)

Box 2
Head: Top US varsities
New York University, University of Southern California, University of Illinois and Columbia University are the top choice of international students. Each hosted more than 10,000 international students.
Box 3
International students contribute $30 billion to the US economy in a year.
International students contributed more than $30 billion and supported more than 373,000 jobs to the US economy in 2014. Chinese students constitute 31% of the international students’ population in the US followed by Indian students who constitute 13.6% at present.