Project to attract foreign students to IITs still a work-in-progress

NEP 2020 aims to achieve ‘internationalisation’ but the number of foreign students at IITs is still low. Here’s what an analysis of 10 IITs shows.

IIT Roorkee is the one with the highest number of foreign students enrolled. (Image: Official website)IIT Roorkee is the one with the highest number of foreign students enrolled. (Image: Official website)

Shradha Chettri | April 19, 2024 | 12:28 PM IST

NEW DELHI: The goal of National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is to achieve “internationalisation” by making the Indian education system self-reliant, matching global standards and, in turn, attracting a greater number of students from abroad. However a look into the enrolment of international students in the institutes of national importance – the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) – reveals that this project is still a work-in-progress.

Among the older IITs, IIT Roorkee numbers were among the best. Data for a period of five years, collected from 10 IITs by Careers360, show that the newer ones are still struggling to attract international students. For the analysis, only full-time students have been taken into account, not the ones who were part of exchange programmes.

However, all IITs stress that bringing in foreign students is crucial as it is an important parameter in various global rankings, carrying a weightage of almost 5%.

A general trend in enrolments shows that the number of international students is higher in MTech and Phd programmes. The countries which students have come from include Nepal, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and others.

Meanwhile as the IIT’s try to get foreign students home, IIT Delhi and IIT Madras have started campuses abroad.

Also read IIT Madras Zanzibar plans new courses, shift for permanent campus in 2025

Study in India: Older IITs

The data compiled through the annual reports of the institute show that the COVID-19 pandemic had also affected the enrolment of foreign students.

For instance in IIT Delhi, there were 96 students from over 19 countries studying at the institute during the 2022-23 academic year. The institute had the maximum number in 2020-21 when 121 students from over 38 countries were taken in. It was quite a jump from just 82 students from 16 countries in 2018-19.

The 2019 report stated, “The Institute will continue to stress on the 3 I’s – Internationalisation, Interdisciplinary research and Industry Connect – under the Institute of Eminence umbrella. The institute will look to increase faculty strength (including foreign faculty), increase the fraction of international students (especially in PG and PhD programmes). The institute will look to explore joint PG degree programmes (especially with foreign universities) and strengthen student exchange to boost internationalisation and cultural diversity.”

In the same year, IIT-D had also launched a scheme for attracting foreign PhD students by creating an International PhD Fellowship Programme (IPFP) with 500 fellowships. Earlier, the union education ministry had also emphasised the need to increase the admission of foreign nationals under the self-financing scheme.

IIT Madras, which is older than IIT-D, logs a smaller number. In the latest year, 2022-23, 64 foreign students were on the rolls. The 2023 report states, “International delegation visits provide opportunities to showcase our academic programs, research facilities, and other infrastructure at our campus, which will attract foreign students and faculty to collaborate with us.”

Through the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), IIT-M received 17 students in the MTech programme in July 2021.

For IIT Kanpur, only the 2022-23 report puts the number at 25. On the steps taken to attract foreign students, the report states, “We instituted fellowships for foreign students admitted in postgraduate programs. All foreign students admitted in a masters or PhD program and who do not have any other scholarship/funding are now eligible to receive the institute fellowship at par with that of Indian students.”

At IIT Bombay, the maximum number of foreign students admitted was in the academic year 2019-20 – around 103. In the 2022-23 session, there were 77 from 16 countries. The students were nationals of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Finland, France, Germany, Guyana, Japan, Nepal, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, USA and Yemen.

Also read Rise in Indians pursuing overseas education due to women, tier 2,3 town students: Study Abroad Consultants

International students at new IITs

The annual report of IIT Guwahati shows that in 2022-23, 11 foreign students were enrolled. At 37, its highest-ever enrolment, was in 2018-19, which also includes the exchange programme students. “The year 2022-23 saw a steep drop in students’ mobility, all over the world, due to the pandemic. There were some 11 students from various countries who registered for full-time courses,” stated the report.

At IIT Mandi, which was established in 2009, there were 15 international students in 2022-23 from countries such as Bangladesh, Canada, Ethiopia, Nepal and one from Pakistan. The year before, there were 18.

Also read MTech Admission: Engineering colleges offer scholarships, reduce fees to fill seats

IIT Ropar, which had 23 international students in 2022-23, states that 2021-20 was quite “challenging for us due to Covid-19”. For IIT BHU (Varanasi), 2021-22 saw the highest foreign student enrolment (24). In the year after, the number dropped to 22.

IIT Jodhpur stated that they had eight foreign students, four of them part of the exchange programme. These students are from France, Indonesia, Syria and Bangladesh.

Surajit Ghosh, dean, international relations, alumni and corporate relations, IIT Jodhpur, told Careers360: “The growth of foreign students in the institute is significant. Graduated foreign students have been successfully placed in highly-reputed companies such as Google, LUMIQ, and ICICI bank.The institute actively participates in government of India initiatives to attract foreign students, including ASEAN, study in India, and ICCR.”

He added, “Furthermore, in alignment with our vision, the Office of International Relations collaborates with various foreign universities for exchange programs, joint degree programs, and research collaborations.”

In newer IITs like Tirupati, the numbers are still very low with just four foreign students enrolled in MTech in 2022-23. IIT Bhilai’s two foreign PhD students are from Myanmar.

Talking about the importance of foreign students, Ghosh added: “The inclusion of foreign students plays a crucial role in the ranking of the institute. Maintaining this record is essential, as such information serves as a parameter matrix in various rankings.”

Also read NIT, IIIT placements see job offers drop 30-40%, salaries by 50%

IIT Roorkee: A case study

In 2022-23, around 210 international students were enrolled full time in various programmes at IIT Roorkee. In 2020-21, the number stood at 219 and 210 students were of 28 different nationalities; most were in MTech and Phd programmes.

“IIT Roorkee was established in 1847 and has a long history of hosting international students. The alumni network across the globe creates a strong base. Apart from that, we also participate in international education fairs to connect with potential students and create awareness,” said Vimal Chandra Srivastava, dean, International Relations. The institute had also created a unique admission portal within IIT Roorkee.

Srivastava explained: “The portal has reduced [the] application processing time, and made it transparent and efficient. The departments and administration remain in touch with applicants throughout the process to resolve any issue. Throughout the year, several dedicated staff at the IR office remain in regular touch with government funding agencies to make sure that updated information about different funding and scholarship schemes is available to the prospective students and they benefit from that.” End blurb

The students join the institute through the EPITA student exchange programme, ASEAN undergraduate scholarship, Study in India (SII) portal, A2A scholarship under ICCR and also through the self-financing mode. However, the institute also states that it is still lagging behind several foreign countries in the number of international students.

“Besides inviting degree-seeking foreign students at the campus, IITR also attracts students for short term semester exchange and internship programmes. IITR is also participating in several multi-national study programmes such as ERASMUS+ to facilitate exchange of students with its partner universities,” added Srivastava. ERASMUS+ is the European Union’s programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe.

According to the Open Doors Report (ODR) on International Educational Exchange, the number of international students from India to the United States increased by 35% and resulted in an all-time high of 2,68,923 students in 2022-23. Much of last year’s growth is due to maths and computer science programmes, followed by engineering and business.

Follow us for the latest education news on colleges and universities, admission, courses, exams, research, education policies, study abroad and more..

To get in touch, write to us at

Download Our App

Start you preparation journey for JEE / NEET for free today with our APP

  • Students300M+Students
  • College36,000+Colleges
  • Exams550+Exams
  • Ebooks1500+Ebooks
  • Certification16000+Certifications