India’s New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is paving the way to a restructured education system – one that is aiming to overturn existing challenges of access, quality, resource allocation, recruitment, pedagogy, accreditation standards and structure, and more (MHRD, 2020). The goal is to develop an enhanced academic environment by 2040, with well-integrated schooling and tertiary education systems. However, NEP 2020 is still in its early stages of implementation, and in light of the scope of growth that is being targeted, there is an urgent need to develop a strong evaluation mechanism.
For the purpose of this study, India’s performance in the provision of student mobility schemes under its Internationalization strategy will be assessed – as a standalone initiative as well as in comparison to policy measures undertaken by Germany, which has established itself as a major academic player, worldwide (DAAD, n.d.). The primary focus of this assessment with be the financial structure that is employed for attracting and keeping international students. While there is a wide gap between a developing country such as India and a developed country as Germany – with vast distinctions in cultural background, socio-economic framework, political foundations, and security concerns – a parallel association may allow India to prepare for a commonly-held aspiration of both countries – that is, to attain and maintain the status of a global study destination. The aim is to formulate best practices from the benchmark country – Germany – and assess its suitability to India’s context, given that it is one of the top host countries for Indian students.
Internationalization and the National Education Policy 2020
Prior to the National Education Policy 2020, India’s educational vision was based on the National Policy on Education 1986, which focused on research and development strategies, representation from marginalised communities, non-formal education practices, and more (MHRD, 1986). The NEP 2020 continues to address these challenges, but also brings in a novel addition – that of internationalization of higher education, which discusses credit recognition, research collaborations, establishing local campuses of foreign universities, and student mobility opportunities (MHRD, 2020: Internationalization –National Education Policy 2020). The process involves the creation of student offices at academic institutions hosting international students; provision of a diversified program offerings which cater to Indian culture, history, social sciences, and more; and more significantly, the signing of Memorandum of Understanding with countries to ease student mobility, and recognition of credits and degrees (MHRD, 2020). These are further supported by infrastructural changes pertaining to the transformation of India’s regulatory structure and the development of multidisciplinary education.
Significance of NEP 2020
The aforementioned changes are especially crucial because it allows the development of structures that will facilitate student mobility – such as a revised National Qualifications Framework that recognizes foreign degrees and credits (MHRD, 2022). The diversification of educational bodies and academic offerings/opportunities, and the resulting replacement of a format that is more than two decades old, provides a promising agenda to all concerned groups – from implementers and coordinators to beneficiary groups.
Indeed, continued and consistent efforts are needed from concerned authorities to ensure the sustainability of NEP 2020 goals. Figure 1 provides an overview of relevant stakeholders and their associated roles in the implementation of the New Education Policy 2020. The first layer of policy coordination has to be maintained by the Indian government, supported by the current regulatory bodies, and eventually, by the newly-formed regulatory institutions. Implementation of targets have to be managed by Universities and other higher education institutions, with the assistance of key academic communities – students, faculty, and administrative staff – whose roles goes beyond the immediate issue of internationalization; in this light, a thorough feedback system has to be initiated so as to gather data on aspects such as extent of implementation, impact of measures on different groups, recommendations for improvement, etc. This category is then followed by international actors, such as foreign countries and their respective ministries or higher education agents, as well as international students/researchers, faculty, and administrative staff; these stakeholders play a crucial role in the fulfillment of internationalization efforts. Lastly, the general public, independent media, civil society organizations, and Student/Teacher Unions provide the critical element of ensuring accountability and transparency from policy implementers.
Case Study: The German Higher Education System
Before delving into measures than can support the initiatives outlined in the NEP 2020, it becomes relevant to understand the functioning of high-performing host countries that have become global destinations for international students. Student mobility in Germany, in particular, is assessed by different agents, functioning within the national framework, or at the supranational/international levels. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) produces reports that assess the financial impact of student mobility on host countries such as Germany (DAAD, 2013). The added value of international students in Germany amounted for €8,000 per person (pp. 7) in 2011. For the same year, it was assessed that each international student led to the creation of approximately 0.14 jobs in the country (pp. 8). Additionally, in case of gainful employment of such students, Germany stood to benefit from an annual value creation of €53,300 per international graduate, and an additional €17,000 from their consumer practices (pp. 9). Similarly, assessments are made by intergovernmental organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, 2012) and the Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat, 2008), as well as other national institutions such as the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF, 2019), which evaluate the economic contributions made by international students to Germany. Germany’s data collection system can also, perhaps, be attributed to its investment in education sector. Public expenditure on education averaged to 9.6% between 2016-2019 (European Commission, 2021), and benefited from the allocation of 6.1% of GDP in 2020 (Global Data, 2021).
Gathering and analysis of similar data by several actors may appear superfluous – not only in terms of available information, but also the added expenses that are required for such country-specific assessments. However, the field of public policy is constantly evolving, and seeks the support of comparable data to formulate future undertakings. To this end, information on economic benefits of international students, their involvement in the labour market, impact and extent of engagement in research and innovation, patterns of mobility, and investment practices become critical.
Key Takeaways for India
As per data shared by the Bureau of Immigration, 133,135 students went abroad to study in the current financial year; 444,553 students went abroad in 2021; 259,655 students went abroad in 2020 (IANS, 2022), 770,000 students went in 2019. These students spend approximately $30 billion (Statista, 2019) annually to support their education. This number is expected to rise to 1.8 million outbound students spending $75-$85 billion dollars by 2024 (ICEF Monitor, 2022). The top host countries for mobile students are the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, Ireland, etc. On the other hand, there were less than 50,000 international students coming to India in 2019-2020 (Ministry of Education, 2020), mostly from Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and other neighbouring countries (Sharma, 2022). Interestingly, there is negligible data on the GDP contribution made by international students in India, while there are extensive studies on how Indian students who go abroad contribute to other countries’ GDP. The role of different stakeholders – specifically, educational bodies and civil society organizations – becomes relevant here, with efforts converging on the collection and assessment of the economic benefits of hosting international students. With internationalization as a goal, this information is more vital as it can facilitate India’s smooth transition into a study destination. Data on financial resources will also assist the re-allocation of funds into areas within the education sector that require urgent intervention.
Indeed, the successful implementation of NEP 2020 depends heavily on India’s ability to allocate at least 6% of the GDP to education sector (Kiran, 2020); but recent patterns have indicated that only ~3% of GDP get earmarked for educational development initiatives (Chakrabarty, 2022). Additional expenditure would allow current and future academic bodies to evaluate feasibility of ongoing measures and the impact of international students in different sectors, as well as assess development initiatives that can be adopted to cater to the needs of international and domestic students, faculties, and institutions.
Aside from reducing gaps in the availability of information for policy formulation and increasing investments in the education sector, there is a need to also support micro-level incentives for international students to consider India as a host country. In Germany, there are currently 416,437 international students, of which 29,000 receive scholarships (SVN, 2022).
With Bachelor’s degree graduates immediately enrolling to Master’s degree, there is now a trend of smaller gap years. As per a recent survey, 69.2% of international students prefer to stay in Germany to search for employment opportunities (SIG, 2022), thereby strengthening their financial commitments to the country. While India doesprovide certain scholarship opportunities to international students, there is a need to further consolidate these efforts. It is relevant for researchers and academics to find fellowship opportunities to come to India for research purposes, and is especially significant for students for whom studying in the country would require resources that may not be available to them. Scholarships will also act as an indicator for number of foreign nationals, and their progress after graduation. The provision of stipends by the government, educational institutions, or external bodies will also incentivise the development in other aspects, such as proper housing and other basic facilities, safety in student-dominated localities, improvements in infrastructure, etc. A holistic growth, therefore, becomes actionable with greater emphasis on attracting international students towards India.
The 2022-2023 Union Budget for Department of Higher Education highlights the allocation of ₹200 crore or ~€25 million for internationalization, while also promising an increase in overall expenditure in higher education from 13.06% in 2018-2019 (Maniar, 2022) to an estimated 26.8% in 2022-23. The ambitious target of doubling resource allocation will allow various measures to reach fruition, and will be especially crucial for attracting and strengthening the interests of foreign countries to invest in a two-way student mobility opportunity, where India not only loses an important demographic group to brain-drain processes, but also creates suitable academic environment to support study and research interests of incoming students/academics. For such a goal to be successfully implemented, there is a need to address information gaps on student mobility – specifically international students, evaluate the resulting impact on the country’s economic functioning, outline the budgetary propositions and expenditures for education sector, and strengthen scholarship and research or study opportunities at higher educational institutions. The overarching measure to enable such initiatives is to ensure the allocation of at least 6% of the GDP to education; failure to do so would inevitably lead to delays in executing the NEP 2020.
India envisions itself as a global study destination in the near future, as has repeatedly been promised in the New Education Policy 2020. By improving its performance as an academic entity, India can revolutionize the idea of quality education, where excellence is not upheld solely by the developed world, but is also attainable in developing countries. The ambitions that are outlined in NEP 2020 provide a strong basis for furthering the advancement of Global South into mainstream platforms, that are currently dominated by superpowers. Needless to say, the coming decade will prove to be a vital indicator of India’s ability to progress globally.