The soaring dreams of small cities: rise in study abroad aspirants from Tier 2 and 3 Indian cities

“The annual spending of Indian students on overseas education is expected to grow from the current annual $28 billion to $80 billion by 2024”

Until recently, the dream to secure a degree from a top-notch foreign university was reserved for Indian students from affluent backgrounds and major metropolitan areas. However, recent projections demonstrate an interesting change in aspirants demographics, writes Ashish Fernando, CEO of iSchoolConnect Inc.

India is registering a significant increase in the number of students from Tier 2 and non-metropolitan cities who are jumping the bandwagon of higher education abroad. According to the RedSeer report on the market for “Higher Education Abroad,” the number of Indian students pursuing higher education overseas increased from 440,000 in 2016 to 770,000 in 2019. This number is expected to rise to 1.8 million by 2024.

So, what’s helping Indians dream bigger in small cities?

The big Indian dream of small cities

Various factors make Indian students gravitate towards overseas education. One of them is economic affordability. The surge in demand for higher education is indicative of the country’s rising per capita income, which has increased by 30% over the last six years. Thus, the rise in income levels led to increased consumer expenditure on education, which rose from $24 billion (₹1.8 lakh crore) in 2011-12 to $68 billion ( ₹5.1 lakh crore) in 2018-19, according to the Care Ratings Report. As per the RedSeer Report, monetary projections show that the annual spending of Indian students on overseas education is expected to grow from the current annual $28 billion to $80 billion by 2024.

*( 1USD = 74.96250 INR)

The outflow of Indian students is also propelled by the gaps in the Indian education system that still largely operates through traditional courses and performs inadequately in providing niche/advanced courses. This paucity of opportunities to pursue research-oriented courses motivates domestic students to apply to foreign institutions that offer a plethora of specialisations and research opportunities. Further, the supply-demand imbalance, limited opportunities for quality higher education, and India’s youth bulge are other reasons for the outflow of Indian students to other countries.

Edtech firms as enablers

The quest for quality life and enhanced Return on Investment is driving Indians from small cities to top study abroad destinations. But the role of AI-based study abroad consultancy firms acting as propellers for aspirants is something to talk about. Today, a large percentage of outbound students utilise the services of edtech firms online/offline to get through the application process.

Edtech firms operating in the domain are cognisant of the rising aspirations of the students from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. Thus, a lot of them have resorted to online consultancy, providing more options to students in non-metropolitan areas. The upward trend in online consultancy is also partly due to the pandemic. As per the RedSeer Report, many online companies have reported a 5-10X growth in user base and revenues for their services.

Further, the reports project that the employment of online services is prominent during the test preparation, application, and visa phases. For the later stages of the overseas education process, the students prefer offline services.

Runway of dreams

Higher education abroad is a runway of dreams for many young Indians today. With its demographic dividend, India is positioned as the leading student source market among many top foreign universities. It will be interesting to see how foreign universities tap into the burgeoning potential of India’s study abroad base. This herculean drill will require concentrated efforts from various stakeholders, who must work in tandem to make the study abroad dream approachable for students in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities.

About the Author: Ashish Fernando is the CEO of iSchoolConnect IncHe founded iSchoolConnect in 2017 to solve the pain point of many parents and children: getting unbiased, hassle-free admission in foreign colleges. Through the effective use of Artificial Intelligence, iSchoolConnect aims at being the most cost-effective and advanced solution for connecting students and schools worldwide. The company currently serves more than 1.5M students across the globe.