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India: weak rupee threatens outbound mobility

An ongoing slump in the value of the Indian rupee has caused the cost of overseas education to swell, sparking fears of a slowdown in the study abroad market. Since January, the rupee has fallen against a basket of major currencies, hitting a low of 56.515 last month against the US dollar (-23%) – a potential concern for India’s favourite study destination.

As the rupee has fallen against major currencies, costs have climbed 20-30%

It is also down 18% on the Singaporean dollar, 17% on the Canadian dollar, 16% on British pound and 13% on the Australian dollar – again affecting highly popular destinations.

The upshot is hefty rises in the cost of education of between 20-30%, according to observers. Sudhakaraiah Yeddula, CEO & Director at agency Edu Channel, said: “The effect of rupee depreciation is a real concern for us and it has an impact on our business. The Indian agency industry is worried… We have not seen this situation in the recent past.”

“The effect of rupee depreciation is a real concern… The Indian agency industry is worried”

Parents have expressed concern. Many from the Indian middle class traditionally rely on bank loans to fund studies abroad but now face an added burden of interest. They also fear semesterly fees will continue to rise: in May alone the rupee fell by 6.51% against the dollar due to uncertainty in global markets.

“The conditions have turned ‘foreign education’ into a luxury affair, not something for the middle class as parents have to slog out a lot more money compared to earlier to get their children into good universities,” Neha Racch, senior counsellor at agency Apex Consultants told Press Trust of India.

Commentators in India say families will now need to plan and save more, as well as being more careful about what and where their children study, to ensure money isn’t wasted on the application process. Amit Agnihotri, who runs management education website MBAUniverse.com said foreign universities could suffer. “It may not affect the Ivy Leagues because of their pedigree but it will certainly hamper tier-II foreign colleges that get the bulk of the Indian students,” he said.

Despite the gloomy outlook, some agents are more optimistic. “It is not a permanent phenomenon, these things oscillate and eventually settle down,” one agent, who preferred not to be named, told The PIE News.

Although his US numbers have been lower than usual, Arun Jacob, director of Array Globe, added that business was generally good. “The serious student has been planning [overseas study] for years and made all sorts of preparations and invested time, money and effort,” he said. ”A rise in the dollar value will not mean they will trade off one precious year of their young life.”

“Some Indian students may look at European destinations seriously”

Others say comparatively affordable destinations could gain in appeal. Canada has been highlighted (which is already seeing growing interest as the UK and Australia struggle), and Germany, which saw a boost in Indian enrolments earlier this year.

“The aspirations of emerging Indian middle-class far outstrips any barriers to go abroad, and hence they will start looking for alternative destinations which can offer them better return on investment,” said Rahul Choudaha, Director of Research and Advisory Services at World Education Services.

Jacob said that Indian students could “look at European destinations seriously considering the euro is weakening,” flagging a phenomenon currently in play in China. But he added that the natural preference was still for English-speaking countries.

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