Is India still the neighbourhood’s education hub?

By - 5 March 2020


5 March 2020

India has long been an education hub for students from its neighbourhood.[2] Besides economic benefits, India’s capacity to attract students from neighbouring countries has helped it to form closer political ties and spread its cultural influence and values to the surrounding region. India’s ability to provide quality higher education is a form of soft power that, subtly but surely, enhances India’s connectivity with its neighbours. Some of the South Asian leaders who have benefited from an education in India include Nepal’s former Prime Minister B.P. Koirala, Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, and Afghanistan’s former President Hamid Karzai. In 2018, however, only three serving world leaders had studied in India, compared to 58 in the United States.[3]

This policy brief maps the current status of India as a higher-education hub for students from South Asia. For a comparative analysis, mapping of outgoing students from the region to China has also been included.

The data on student inflows to India is from the annual All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) reports published by India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India, between 2010-2011 and 2018-2019.[4] The reports are based on data that has been uploaded voluntarily to the AISHE portal by all institutions of higher education, namely universities, colleges and stand-alone institutions. Therefore, the data reflects only the reported estimates. For the 2018–19 report, the survey reported a 94% rate of participation.[5]

The equivalent data for China is from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) ChinaPower Project, derived from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China.[6] However, this data set does not have any data for Bhutan. Therefore, for consistency, the India-China comparison (Figure 4) does not include students from Bhutan. To maintain comparability, in this inter-country analysis, totals do not include students from either India or China. The same figure also does not include students from Pakistan because of China’s preferential education policies towards the beneficiaries of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), resulting in a much higher number of Pakistani students studying in China.[7]

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