Keep your student doors ajar, else…

In a (Western liberal democratic) world that, in theory, swears by free access and open societies, international students are becoming a little less welcome by the day. Canada, Britain – and now it seems Australia as well – are keeping their doors far less open, ostensibly because of housing capacity concerns, domestic political implications of international students transitioning into citizens, and other barely-hidden xenophobic fears.

For Indian students, who comprise a major share of international scholars, these changes are more an inconvenience. There are other options. As the older, mostly English-speaking, destinations recalibrate their intake, non-anglophone countries like France and Spain are going the extra mile to attract them. International students have economic value. They boosted the British economy by some $53 bn in 2021-22, pumped in around $26 bn in 2022 into Canada, and is Australia’s fourth-largest ‘export’. This is not student pocket money but one of the key economic drivers, especially important for knowledge economies. Instead of blocking the door, these countries should resolve their capacity issues.

This is also an opportunity for Indian higher education to put its act together – starting off with internationalising faculties, going beyond the caravanserais of Indian expat professors, to bring those with proven track record to teach in Indian institutions even if it’s for a semester a year. Encourage the Anusandhan National Research Foundation, CSIR institutions and other public organisations to create partnerships with world colleges and universities as part of the research and innovation value chain. These changes will help attract international students here – if they are bent on missing out on the action ‘there’.


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