52% students prefer STEM courses abroad, 64% wary of IELTS, TOEFL: Report

For most students English proficiency tests like IELTS and TOEFL and other qualifying exams SAT, GMAT are the biggest barrier for choosing education overseas.


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Over half of the students surveyed identified financial issues as the topmost concern while opting for education abroad.Over half of the students surveyed identified financial issues as the topmost concern while opting for education abroad.

R. Radhika | October 20, 2021 | 02:48 PM IST

NEW DELHI: Specialised courses, hybrid learning and self-dependence are becoming a priority for Indian students choosing to study abroad in the pandemic, revealed a study commissioned by Western Union- a global financial service.

Pointing towards a considerable shift in students’ perspective, the study titled ‘Education Overseas – An Evolving Journey’, said that the idea of ‘living life on their own terms is now the prime motivation for Indian students to study abroad. Almost half--45 percent-- of the surveyed students said “a foreign country empowers them to be independent and provides a sense of freedom” as the key reason to choose to study abroad.

Moreover, instead of the reputation of a foreign university, 52 percent of students prefer to look at specialised courses, especially STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines, the study stated. The demand for specialisations like data analytics, artificial intelligence, digital marketing, cybersecurity, ethical hacking is taking precedence over traditional university courses. Meanwhile, language proficiency tests and other qualifying exams are driving students away from the UK and the US to choose destination countries without mandatory exams.

According to government data, students from more than 70,000 families went abroad to study in the first two months of 2021 despite the pandemic. A majority of the students cited overall personal development as the most significant driver prompting their decision to study abroad.

The study surveyed 807 individuals – students, parents, grandparents, career counsellors – across 12 cities between January and June 2021. Among these, 241 were students.

Study abroad: Hybrid learning, job opportunities

The push for hybrid learning during pandemic times has also affected the choice of students willing to study offshore. According to the study, 46 percent of the surveyed students preferred this model of learning.

In 2020, the number of students studying overseas significantly dropped to 2,61,406 from 5,88,931 in 2019 before the pandemic hit the world. With the reopening of borders in many countries and easing COVID-19 restrictions, students are eager to learn in the combination of online and offline classrooms. In January 2021, according to the ministry of external affairs data, more than 10.9 lakh Indian students were studying in 85 countries across the globe.

164032899321252 percent of students prefer specialised courses, especially STEM disciplines (Source: Western Union)

Furthermore, nearly 43 percent of students said that the opportunity to travel and explore other cultures is a key motivation to study abroad over better job opportunities. Among 241 student respondents, 73 percent of the student intenders believed that personal development was the key short-term benefit to studying overseas, while 60 percent of the students currently studying overseas expressed learning and earning as the top short-term benefit when studying overseas.

The study also revealed a shift in the choice of destination to study abroad. Moving away from the traditionally-favored US, UK, Canada, and Australia, Indian students are also choosing alternatives such as Germany, Italy, Ireland, Turkey, Russia, and China – all of which have seen a significant rise as preferred study destinations.

Qualifying exams: IELTS, TOEFL

For most students surveyed -- 64 percent--English proficiency tests like IELTS and TOEFL and other qualifying exams SAT, GMAT are the biggest barrier for choosing a foreign education, the report stated. This has led students to opt for countries and universities that do not have entrance exams or mandatory ones. Italy, Spain, and Germany are some of the countries emerging as popular alternatives.

1640329161979(Source: Western Union)

In addition, money-related concerns, particularly budgeting and financial planning, are also key barriers expressed by both students and parents, playing a key deciding factor.

Over half of the respondents -- 54 percent-- identified financial issues as the topmost concern while opting for education abroad. Among 807 respondents, 83 percent were looking to fund their studies through a loan which includes an education loan from banks and financial institutions, soȏ loans from friends and family, or a loan against property.

The financial constraints, the findings highlighted, have also affected the choice to study for only a shorter duration with 47 percent of students preferring them.

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