India is considering creating its own English language test, similar to TOEFL, for foreign students in order to enhance its appeal as a study destination.
Speaking at a press conference in New Delhi, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) President Dr Vinay Sahasrabuddhe said that after several brainstorming sessions with institutions involved, the government had identified several issues that had prevented India’s entry into the top 10 or 15 countries for education. Sahasrabuddhe said:
As per the data, India is the 26th most favored destination for education globally. We are trying to make efforts to move up the ladder, and get into at least the top 15.
One of the reasons for not being in the top 10 list, he said, was that students from non-English speaking foreign countries, once admitted to Indian institutions, found it difficult to cope with English secondary education. The government, he said, is also looking at building hostels and providing accommodation for couples since a considerable number of foreign students are married.
According to the ICCR, there are around 50,000 foreign students, mostly from Asian and African countries, studying in various degree programs in India. However, other ministries claim that there are around 100,000 foreign students. There is no definitive official data on foreign students. Neither has there ever been a survey of the favorite graduate programs among foreign students.
The ICCR, the cultural arm of the Ministry of External Affairs, has been promoting India’s soft power for over 60 years, through cultural and education exchange programmes. The council is the largest governmental body to offer scholarships to foreign students. At present, around 4,000 foreign students are recipients of ICCR scholarships.
Sahasrabuddhe also said that the number of foreign students would rise if people who visit India to study and train in Indian classical music, dance, Ayurveda, yoga and culinary courses on tourist visas are added.
We are yet to devise a mechanism which will give us an exact idea about the total number of foreign students in India.
With a mission to make India a preferred hub for education, the ICCR in collaboration with Symbiosis International and Savitribai Phule Pune University is organizing a national conference ‘Destination India’ in Pune on January 28 and 29, Sahasrabuddhe said. This is the first time that all the institutions involved in hosting foreign students will come together to prepare a roadmap aimed at bringing 200,000 foreign students to India by 2022, he added.
The ICCR will also honor four distinguished foreigners who studied in Indian universities and rose to high positions in their respective countries. The annual award was set up by then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in 2015.