More Indians head to top B-schools abroad

More Indian students are taking a shot at applying to top overseas business schools or STEM courses despite the Covid-19 pandemic, said leading education consultants, mirroring a trend seen during the 2008 global financial crisis.

New Delhi: More Indian students are taking a shot at applying to top overseas business schools or STEM courses despite the Covid-19 pandemic, said leading education consultants, mirroring a trend seen during the 2008 global financial crisis. Aspirants are betting that the economy would have turned around by the time they finish, the consultants said.

Inquiries and enrolments for top global B-schools have gone up 35%, said Vibha Kagzi, founder and CEO of ReachIvy.com. Applications for both undergraduate and master’s programmes in artificial intelligence, public policy, law, education, marketing and psychology have risen 20-25%. Higher studies are seen as a better option than looking for work right now. “Limited job opportunities, salary cuts and layoffs make it unpalatable to continue in the job market,” said Kagzi. An Ivy League education is seen as an investment that will reap rich dividends later.

Many top universities are also offering a waiver or relaxation on Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) and Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) test scores this year, prompting students who had been hesitant to go ahead and apply, she said. “During a crisis, students take the time out to go to school so that the economy can recover,” said Rajdeep Chimni, CEO of Admissions Gateway, which helps students get selected to top schools. When they graduate, they are in a position to make the most of an improved job market.


The schools receiving most applications include the likes of Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg and Columbia. There is now fourfold demand for applications to top B-schools such as Harvard, INSEAD, HEC Paris and Rotman School of Management, said Adarsh Khandelwal, cofounder of Collegify, an admissions advisory. Khandelwal also said that there was increased demand for undergraduate programmes in subjects such as math, seen as a pathway to jobs in finance and consulting.

Colleges, even top ones, are facing a tough time financially because Indian and Chinese international students account for most of their revenue stream, he said. “Universities are keen to revive the pipeline, especially from India,” said Gaurav Srivastava, regional director, South Asia, Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the GMAT test. He said colleges have increased scholarships being offered to incoming students this year. Besides, “Indians might (also) gain from China-US tensions,” said Khandelwal of Collegify.

Every year, 250,000-300,000 Indian students go abroad. This year, more than 50% of them deferred their plans, according to data from foreign education consultants like Collegify and Yocket, on account of the pandemic. Fresh enquiries had dried up in the first quarter of this financial year due to the lockdown.
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However, this is slowly picking up and coming close to last year’s level, said Sumeet Jain, cofounder of Yocket.

Jain said STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects are preferred over MBAs, barring the top schools. “The Indian market is very price sensitive,” he said. “In the US, STEM master's courses are becoming more popular.”

A STEM course is especially beneficial because students get a three-year OPT (Optional Practical Training) visa at the end of the course, giving them that much more time to find a job, compared with one year for others.

In fact, most of the top B-schools in the US have converted their MBA programmes into a STEM degree, said Chimni. This is also one of the reasons MBAs from the top schools are still coveted. However, he said applicants would face a tough time this year as many students from the 2020 intake had deferred their admission to next year, reducing the number of seats available.
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