New study destinations preferred by students. The main reasons are the opportunity to travel and explore other cultures

According to a study called “Education Abroad – An Evolving Journey” by Western Union, a leading provider of cross-border payment services and foreign exchange, one in five students (22%) prefer new and unconventional study destinations. Ireland, Turkey and Spain, according to Business-Standard.

The study was conducted to understand the collective journey of Indian families for the international education of their children and for a global future.

Among other key findings, areas of specialization such as data analysis, artificial intelligence, digital marketing, cyber security, ethical hacking and environmental technology take precedence over traditional undergraduate courses for 52% of students wishing to study abroad. They are looking for specialized but slowly gaining courses, often looking beyond the Ivy League universities that cannot offer these courses.

The findings highlight a major shift in the way students and parents now view education options abroad. According to available data from the State Department, students from more than 70,000 families went abroad to study in the first two months of 2021, undeterred by the pandemic. As of January 2021, there were more than 1.09 million Indian students studying in 85 countries around the world, according to data from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Countries like China (29,600 students), Germany and France (10,000 students combined) now have a large number of Indian students.

Nearly half (45%) of students who responded to the study prioritized ‘self-reliance’ and opportunities to ‘live life alone’ as primary motivations for exploring international learning opportunities.

The study also found that students now prioritize the opportunity to travel and explore other cultures (43%) over better job opportunities and a better education.

Western Union also found that remittances by resident Indians have sequentially increased 34% since October 2020, with educational outflows intensifying in the last quarter. Education-related remittances accounted for more than 30% of India’s total outbound remittances in the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Remittances outbound to education increased 64% year over year, with $1.2 billion sent between April and June 2021, up 5.3% from January-March 2021.

In terms of challenges, qualifying exams remain a major obstacle for students (64%), leading them to choose countries/universities that do not have entry exams or compulsory English language proficiency tests. On the other hand, parents have expressed concern about student loans, with many of them expressing concern about loan repayment due to the volatile nature of the current context. Financial concerns, especially budgeting and financial planning, were the main barriers expressed by students and parents as a critical factor in the entire process.

More than half (54%) identified financial problems as the biggest concern when choosing to study abroad. This was also reflected in their decision to opt for shorter courses (47% of students preferred) due to the higher costs associated with studying abroad.

At the same time, three out of four students surveyed sought scholarships while choosing their course of study due to high tuition fees.

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