Indian colleges see spurt in applications as Covid forces students to ditch foreign plans
New Delhi: Manbeen Grover, a Delhi-based mother, had always dreamt of sending her son Viraaj Grover abroad for graduation. Viraaj was on the verge of making this dream come true, having secured admission in a Canadian university, when the Covid-19 pandemic threw a spanner in his plans.
“Now he has decided not to go abroad, and I agreed with his choice,” Manbeen told ThePrint, adding that her son would now look for an Indian alternative.
With Covid-19 forcing many students to either delay or cancel their plans to go abroad for higher education, Indian institutions are seeing a spurt in the number of applications.
From government institutions like Delhi University to their private counterparts, colleges and universities across India say they have witnessed a much higher number of applications this year than previous years.
Delhi University, which offers the largest number of seats in undergraduate courses among central universities, has seen its applications rise by 18 per cent this year. The application window for UG admissions is still open.
“Application window for merit-based UG courses is sill open and we have already received nearly 3.3 lakh applications,” said DU dean for admissions, Shobha Bagai. “Last year, we had received 2.8 lakh applications in total.”
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Private universities see spike
The Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on foreign-education avenues in multiple ways. For one, the resumption of normal international travel remains under a cloud, and there are fears some countries may maintain restricted entry for foreigners until the pandemic has been tackled.
Several institutions, meanwhile, have decided to take courses online to keep the curriculum in step.
Much uncertainty was triggered by a July Trump administration directive pertaining to universities that have moved their courses online in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. The directive required foreign students enrolled in such US universities to either go back home or switch to colleges with in-person classes, but it was shelved after a protest by institutions that would have been affected.
The directive also barred entry into the US for new students, and this rule reportedly remains in place.
All this seems to have led many students aspiring for a foreign degree to recalibrate their plans.
“Given the pandemic, many students are being forced to cancel their study abroad plans. They should not be at any disadvantageous position, as a few of the Indian higher education institutions now offer high quality of education and experience, at much lower costs,” said Dr Rupamanjari Ghosh, the vice-chancellor of Greater Noida-based Shiv Nadar University (SNU), a private institute.
“We have seen a lot of interest from such students, and have become an institution of choice for them given the comprehensive, multidisciplinary, student-centric learning environment at SNU, which is also strongly focused on quality research and innovation,” Ghosh added.
O.P. Jindal Global University, a Sonepat-based private institution that has been declared an Institute of Eminence by the government, said they have seen a 30 per cent hike in the number of applications and enrolments this year as compared to 2019.
“This year, we have also seen an increase in the number of applicants who have appeared for the SAT exam,” said Arjya B. Majumdar, dean for admissions and outreach at O.P. Jindal Global University, referring to the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT).
The SAT is an exam that oversees admissions to US universities but has gained global currency over the years.
“SAT-takers usually focus on higher studies abroad, given that a large majority of universities in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand accept the SAT,” Majumdar added.
JK Lakshmipat University, a private institution based in Jaipur, said they have seen an increase of over 37 per cent in applications as compared to last year.
“We are seeing a great shift in interest among applicants this year. Many students who earlier wanted to study abroad are now looking to join Indian institutes that have tie-ups with leading foreign universities as they offer great exposure,” said Dr R.L. Raina, vice-chancellor of JK Lakshmipat University.
“We have seen an overall increase of 37 per cent in the applications for our UG, PG, PhD, foreign-collaboration courses, and executive courses,” Raina added. “Our two-year Masters programme with the University of Massachusetts has also witnessed a 20 per cent increase in the number of applications compared to the previous year.”
Bagai of Delhi University said there were two reasons behind the increase in the number of applications this year. “One is because of students who are not being able to go out of India and the other is because many professional courses have still not held their entrance exams… I feel students are applying to other universities like DU as a backup,” she added.
The Ministry of Education has also taken cognisance of the foiled study plans of Indian students looking for foreign avenues. In May, the window of Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Mains was extended specifically to accommodate engineering aspirants who wanted to go abroad but couldn’t.
Why did students ditch their plans?
Manbeen Grover said she did “not see the point in my child being enrolled in a university abroad if he has to study online”.
“The idea behind sending him abroad was to give him exposure, which won’t happen with online classes,” she added.
Khyati Pandey, a Mumbai-based student who had secured admission in a US university, cancelled her plans because of the “uncertainty”.
“First of all, there is a lot of uncertainty regarding the Covid situation around the world and, on top of that, the US administration keeps coming up with restrictive rules. If I am studying only online and am unable to attend the university in the US, I better not go,” Pandey added.
Swastik Kotal, a Kolkata resident who was supposed to go to France for an MBA in International Business this year, has postponed his plans until 2021. Kotal, however, has not applied to any institute in India and wants to wait another year to see how the situation progresses.
“I have a family business in Kolkata and I am currently involved with that. I postponed my plans to study abroad because of the Covid situation worldwide,” he said. “I will wait it out for another year and, if things do not improve, then, I will cancel my plan and focus full time on my family business.”