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India: more women enrolling in universities and sharp increase in international student numbers

The results of a report published recently by the University Grants Commission show that the proportion of Indian women enrolling in universities has increased from under 10% on the eve of independence to 41.5% in the academic year of 2010/11.  Whereas the number of women enrolled in universities in 1950/51 was only 40 000 (14 women per hundred men), it escalated to 7 049 000 in 2010/11 (71 women per hundred men). According to the report, the pace of growth has especially accelerated in the last 20 years. The large majority of women in Indian universities are enrolled in non-professional courses, with Arts (42.2%), Science (19.1%) and Commerce (16.1%) being the top preferences.

The number of Indian students pursuing degrees abroad has also grown exponentially, 256% between 2000 and 2009, as revealed in a report from the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore in a project co-funded by the European Union. The number of international Indian students has increased by about 7% a year in the period of 2000-2009, rising from 53 266 to 189 629 in the referred period. However, gender disparities are still apparent: data from 2010 reveal that only 27% of international Indian students were women (although in the United Kingdom this proportion rose to 50%).

The primary destination for international Indian students is still the United States (US), although its leading position has been weakened: in the year 2000, 73.4% of all Indian international students were in US universities, against 53.6% in 2009. Europe has increasingly become a more attractive destination for Indian students: an increase from 3 348 students in 2000 to 51 556 in 2009, a figure representing more than 25% of the total of Indian international students. The United Kingdom is the host country for the largest part of Indian international students in Europe, accounting for 76.9%, but other countries like Germany and France are also amongst the preferred destinations. A recent trend is, however, the increasing number of Indian international students in Sweden, Italy, Ireland and Denmark.

As for the reasons explaining the growing interest of Indian students in European universities, the report states that “Europe provides an attractive combination of financial incentives, easy recognition of Indian qualifications (as it adheres to the same Bachelor-Master structure followed in India) and programmes taught in English, which has a positive impact on drawing more Indians to Europe every year”.

University Grants Commission

Indian Institute of Management Bangalore