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India to overtake China in undergraduate mobility

India could overtake China as the fastest growing market for undergraduates studying abroad as early as 2015, according to new forecasts. International undergraduates are particularly valuable to universities as they pay for three to four years in tuition fees as opposed to one to two, as is common at postgraduate level.

India will have nearly 20 million more college-going citizens than China by 2015

Dr Rahul Choudaha, an international education specialist, said that China still showed most outbound momentum, shown by the 43% rise in Chinese undergraduates in the US last year and 8% drop in Indians.

However, he said: “The Chinese population in the 15-19 year age bracket is projected to decline by 17% between 2010 and 2015, translating into 18 million fewer college-going youths, according to US census data.

“By contrast, India’s college-going population is projected to increase by five million, or 5%, over the same period.”

This would mean that India would have nearly 20 million more college-going citizens than China by 2015.

Choudaha added that children of Indians who started working in “new-age industries” such as information technology in the 1990s would start graduating from 2015 onwards. This would mean more spending power to send children overseas, an area where China currently leads.

The deceleration in Chinese mobility more generally is highlighted in a British Council report released this month (available free to UK institutions). It predicts China will send a total 585,000 students (undergraduate and postgraduate) abroad annually by 2020 – only 17,000 more than it does now – with India becoming the source of most new demand (although China will remain the largest sender in terms of absolute numbers by some margin).

The British Council forecasts a slowdown across most major markets by the turn of the next decade

However, it forecasts a slowdown across most major markets by the turn of the next decade – a very different picture to the rapid growth of 2002-2009.

“Our research…predicts a significant slow down in tertiary enrolments globally, mainly because of demographic slow down,” author of the report, Janet Ilieva, told The PIE News yesterday.

“The global mobility rate remained unchanged at 2% throughout the past decades. As such, a slow down in domestic enrolments [will have] a direct impact on countries’ outbound mobility.”

Ilieva said that aside from demographics, China’s slowdown would be driven by improving domestic education standards and growing economic prosperity – both disincentives to study overseas. Choudaha said that demand for more diversity at foreign universities would also carry weight.

“Diversity and the potential threat to integrity of the admissions process due to fraudulent agent behaviour, may lead universities [overseas] to consider ways of becoming less dependent on Chinese students,” he said.


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