India performs below its potential, and draws mostly regional students who look at affordability and quality.

With only about 50,000 foreign students enrolled in higher education institutions across the country, India is still far behind many developing countries in offering global campuses.

India provides for 15 per cent supernumerary seats under University Grants Commission norms in all universities for foreign students, including Non-Resident Indians and Persons of Indian Origin in undergraduate and post-graduate courses. A new law aimed at promoting innovation universities may provide many more seats.

While authentic figures on the exact number of students from abroad studying in the country were not available, information gathered from different sources suggests it is less than 50,000, in public and private institutions. What appears to attract the students, particularly those from the neighbouring and developing countries, is greater affordability and quality.

The majority of students from abroad are in institutions in Maharashtra, particularly Pune, Gujarat and in universities in Delhi. They are mostly in undergraduate courses and the number sharply declines at the post-graduate and doctoral level. Information technology is a popular subject. A substantial number also enrol in art and culture-related courses and exchange programmes offered by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).

Scholarships provide a window to study abroad. In India’s case, ICCR data accessed on its website say 2,325 scholarships were offered this year under various categories for over 80 Asian, African and South and Central American countries, of which 675 are exclusively for Afghanistan and 500 for African countries. The Bangalore Regional centre of ICCR says over 5,000 international students from 50 countries stay there. Of these, 600 are on scholarship and others self-sponsored. ‘‘These students have their own welfare organisations and celebrate their national days and festivals,’’ the website adds. The Federation of International Students Association at Bengaluru is popular among students.

Among the bigger concentrations of international students, Osmania University in Hyderabad has over 3,500, the Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi have over 600 and 250 students respectively, say sources in the higher education sector. Among older and historic institutions, the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth at Varanasi has an estimated 1,500 and the Benares Hindu University about 450. The newly set up South Asian University at Delhi has just about 300 students from the SAARC countries. Symbiosis International University at Pune has over 700 foreign students and the Manipal University approximately 600.

There is only a sprinkling of students from the American and European countries. A large chunk of students is from the neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and African countries.

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