Factors Why Experts Forecast 1.8M Indian Students Abroad by 2024

For the longest time, India has been among the top five senders of international students. An August 2022 article from ICEF Monitor–with analyses from RedSeer Strategy Consultants, Institute of International Education (IIE), and IC3 Institute–shows some new trends and explains how India will remain to be a top sender of global learners, with a forecast of reaching 1.8 million Indian students studying abroad by the year 2024.


In this insight article, we will take a deeper look at the factors and other nuances that drive this trend. Did the pandemic hinder the outbound mobility of Indian students? What are the growth drivers? Is there a new trend emerging that is enforcing the bulging number of outbound Indian international students?

Key Takeaways:


  • India remains among the top five source markets for international students
  • About 1.8 million Indian students are projected to be studying abroad by the year 2024
  • At the time of the 2021 RedSeer analysis, there were nearly 800,000 Indian students enrolled at a higher education institution (HEI) abroad
  • The total spending forecast for tuition fees and living expenses is between USD 75-85 billion

A 2021 report from RedSeer Strategy Consultants has shown observations that there is rapid growth among outbound global learners in India. I see this as good news. It signals success in providing optimal international education services for deserving global learners, especially in developing countries such as India. At the time of the 2021 RedSeer analysis, there were nearly 800,000 Indian students enrolled at an HEI abroad.

By 2024, this number is anticipated to double and reach 1.8 million outbound Indian students. Due to inflation in tuition fees and living expenses–among other possible factors, e.g. pandemic-enforced price hikes–the total spending forecast by then is pegged at between USD 75-85 billion.


India as a Top Source Market


At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, India remained to be among the top senders of international students. This has been especially true among preferred destinations such as Canada, the United States (US), Australia, and the United Kingdom (UK).


The RedSeer analysis also underscores that Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia will stay as favorite destinations for Indian global learners in the coming several months. Recent observations, however, show that the global education sector can expect burgeoning numbers of Indian international students to also head to Germany, Italy, China, Russia, Turkey, and Ireland.


This emerging trend makes me stay optimistic about the future of the international education landscape as it will enable diversification in both ways–from the global learners’ end and in the destination countries as well.


Growth Drivers


From a local perspective, India’s social mobility and demand trends have greatly affected the rapid growth of outbound Indian global learners. For one, and among the most critical factors, aspiring international students in India are determined to attain quality education and career outcomes.


 They consider–and they are not wrong for giving this a thought as this has solid proof–studying in Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia as a great stepping stone in their long-term academic and post-academic career journeys.


Another factor in the surge of outbound mobility of Indian students is a high demand for quality education. The supply of spaces in local HEIs could not meet the fast-growing demand among Indian students.


Additionally, the RedSeer analysis has shown that there is a boost in the financial capacity of Indian families to send an aspiring global learner abroad. Apart from being a positive projection in the international education market in India, I perceive this as a good signal in terms of the country’s economic growth.


At the height of the pandemic, both China and India have been among the source countries to watch out for in terms of border control. This is due to the overwhelming effect of the global health crisis in these countries. That is why I am delighted to read reports that show these countries remain at the forefront of sending international students. 


It speaks a lot about the quality of global education services in these countries and how persistent the education agents are in assisting driven individuals to study abroad even during an era of uncertainty.


Experience-seeking Cohorts and Paradigm Shift


The ICEF Monitor article has mentioned several more factors that drive the growing number of outgoing Indian students. This includes the prevalence of day-to-day use of the English language in the country and the appeal of getting an opportunity to work during or post-studying abroad.


A new finding in the RedSeer analysis is the emergence of the “experience-seeking student cohort.” According to the analysis, this type of global learner is keener at pursuing an undergraduate degree or non-STEM program. Another interesting commonality among this cohort is that they generally belong from high-income families and are less interested in getting immediate work opportunities.


The same ICEF Monitor article also revealed an optimistic paradigm shift as observed by an August 2022 report from IIE and IC3 Institute. In the past years, even smaller towns known to be Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities had been a fertile market of Indian global learners and contributed a good number of outbound students.


This paradigm shift has been driven by a huge appetite for top-notch quality international education and a determination to work abroad. This trend is expected to persist as the youth population in India continues to grow not only in the capital cities but also across the country.


As far as making global education more accessible is concerned, I see these findings as an optimistic trajectory in the international education sector in India. I would also like my fellow leaders in the global education landscape to remain updated on these trends as these will empower us to keep optimizing, innovating, and iterating our methods in making international education available to all deserving students. (SUNEETHA QURESHI)

MSM President

Suneetha has worked for over 15 years in the international education sector and 25 years overall for her work for other industries. As president of MSM, she fortifies its business development outreach globally, particularly in the face of MSM’s foray into edtech-based recruitment via MSM Unify. She preserves the premium, value-adding services provided to each MSM partner institute, including dedicated teams on the ground, agent management, lead generation and inquiry management, application prescreening, and student and parent support through pioneering pre-departure briefing sessions.

She has an impeccable track record of successfully launching the representative offices in Asia and Africa of many North American and European higher education institutions. Her key strengths include hiring, training, and developing teams as evidenced by the successful results of the dedicated in-country college and university client teams.


Suneetha also has taken the lead in developing several initiatives at MSM, including building robust standard operating procedures, the Rise ‘n Shine team engagement platform, and the organization’s data analytics and audit segments.


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