Australia has dropped out of the good books of Indian students looking for education abroad, while the US is gaining lost ground.
There has been a dip of 63% in the number of student visa applications from India to Australia between July 2010 and June 2011, compared to the same period the previous year. The US Consulate, meanwhile, registered a 20% increase in the number of visa seekers from October 2010 to June 2011 over the same period the previous year. In absolute terms, there are more than one lakh Indian students in the US and about half the number in Australia.
The slide in numbers for Australia comes after a steep increase in the number of offshore student visa applications from 12,592 in 2004-05 to 67,141 in 2008-09.It declined sharply in 2009-10 to 18,514 and dropped to 6,875 in 2010-11.
This resulted in India, which had the highest student population in Australia in 2008-09, going to the second position behind China in 2009-10.The next year, it went down further, to the third place as the US took the second position.
The quality of applications received has also gone down steeply, with less than half the applicants (49.6%) being granted visas in 2011. In 2008-09, the approval grant rates was 88.4%, which went down to 46.7% in 2009-10.
Australia's minister for tertiary education, skills and jobs Chris Evans attributed the trend to visa regulations. "We tightened visa approval in that section of the market. We are trying to attract postgraduate students and finding new ways to collaborate with the education sector in India. In vocational education, we are looking at collaborations with Indian skill training providers," said Evans, who is in the country for the Annual India-Australia Ministerial Dialogue on Education Cooperation.
Meanwhile, the number of non-immigrant visas, which includes student visas, issued to Indians by the US has gone up from 4,99,686 in the US fiscal year 2009 (October to September ) to 5,28,286 in 2010. As the current fiscal year is not complete, the figures for 2011 are unavailable, but so far show an increase of 20% compared to the same period last year.
Analysts point to a combination of reasons. "The earlier visa policies of the US were responsible for the growth of traffic to second and third level countries like Australia and Canada. Too many visas were refused in the late 1980s and the early 1990s. This gave way to the popularity of the Australia market. But with the recent violent incidents against Indians in Australia, other markets are picking up," said C B Paul Chellakumar, president of the Association of Accredited Advisors on Overseas Education.