Higher education institutions in India are empowered to admit, on supernumerary basis, international students up to 15 per cent of their intake capacity. With 38.5 million students enrolled in higher education, the country has the potential to have 5.78 million international students. Since globally only 5 million students go abroad for higher education, it would be naive to expect they would all come to India.
The nation could, nonetheless, aspire to have a reasonable share of higher education export. A 20 per cent target would mean a potential of one million international students. In comparison, the actual numbers in 2020 being only 49,358, the country achieved just 4.9 per cent of its potential.
Aspirations notwithstanding, the number of international students has risen marginally from 27,531 in 2010-11 to 49,358 in 2019-20. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) during 2010-11 to 2013-14 was the highest at 9.5 per cent whereas it fell to 2.6 per cent during 2014-15 to 2019-20. In fact, the number of international students declined marginally in 2017-18.
Yet, Indian students going abroad have consistently risen from 66,792 in 1999-2000 to 7,35,000 in 2019-20, pushing the share in higher education import from 3.19 to 6.25 per cent. Ostensibly, the term of higher education trade has been unfavourable in volume as well as value terms. In volume terms, it has risen from -59,035 in 2000 to -6,87,563 in 2019. In value terms, it has shot up from -$1,223 million in 2013 to -$2,297 million.
It is puzzling that the number of international students has remained stagnant at about 0.13 per cent of...