From how classrooms looked to how exams were conducted, the COVID-19 pandemic brought about sweeping changes in the education sector. Disruptions were also caused in the admission process, including for international students coming to Indian universities and colleges for higher education.
Students from different countries opt for Bangalore University (BU) for their higher studies. From 2017 to 2022, 124 students completed their postgraduation from the varsity. However, during the pandemic, apart from a decrease in the number of students coming in from abroad, the 2020-21 batch started after one year — in February 2021. In 2021-2022, there were no foreign students in BU.
“As the pandemic started in March 2020, all work was postponed. The admission process normally starts by August, but due to COVID-19, it was not possible and the admission got delayed. The batch finally started in February 2021. But every year, we get a huge response from different countries, but Afghanistan, Africa and Nepal are significant,” said P. Venugopal, former Director of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).
In Bangalore University, most foreign students come under a fully funded ICCR scholarship scheme. But apart from the pandemic, there were other challenges too. “One of my friends got scholarship to study in Bangalore University, but in between, the scenario in Afghanistan changed. That’s why, due to visa issues, she was not able to come,’‘ said a 2020-batch student from Afghanistan. “We also started classes late due to COVID-19,” she added.
“India is a country where we can find a lot of different experiences. We feel more safe and free here, that’s why we choose India for our higher education,” said another 2020-batch Afghan student from BU.
On the other hand, Bengaluru Central University’s (BCU) is a different story. Having become a new university in 2017-18 after being trifurcated from BU, they are yet to attract foreign students.
Talking to The Hindu, Srinivasa, Special Officer, BCU said, “From 2018, we are working independently. There are a lot of foreign students in affiliated colleges under BCU, but in the main campus, there are no foreign students till now. COVID is the main reason as it brought about a lot of changes in the world. Also, foreign students are more interested in pursuing professional degrees, which we don’t offer,” he said.
Jain University, which saw the highest foreign student admissions in 2019-20, saw a dip post the pandemic. Rahul Jaiswal, senior manager, International Team, Jain University, said compared to 2018-19 when there were 562 foreign student admissions, and 1,000 such admissions in 2019-20, 2020-21 saw a dip to 650, with similar numbers for the next academic year.
“Most demand from international students are for engieering, BBA, BCom and management courses. During the peak pandemic seasons, we managed admissions online and classes also went online,” he explained.
Mr. Venugopal said things will hopefully get back to normal soon. “‘We are hoping that from this year, the number of foreign students will increase, though it will be challenging for Afghan students . But all our support will be there for the current Afghan students who are with us, as we are helping them to continue their higher studies here.” ”