Indian women queue up in droves to pursue higher education in foreign destinations

Indian women queue up in droves to pursue higher education in foreign destinations

Indian women are going places – queueing up in droves to pursue higher education in foreign destinations such the US, UK and other parts of Europe, not just in the metros but in smaller towns as well.

There has been a 100-150% increase in the number of women applicants to study abroad in 2022 compared to the pre-pandemic year of 2019 and the trend will continue in the years to come, foreign education consultants and student loan providers said.

They said the male-female student ratio among applicants seeking admission abroad improved to 50:50 in metro cities in 2022, from 70:30 in 2019. In tier IIIII towns, this ratio improved to 55:45 from 80:20 during the same period, they said.

This comes at a time when companies globally are making a conscious effort to improve participation of women in their workforce, and a greater number of dedicated scholarships and funding opportunities are available for women.

Other contributing factors include a shift in mindset, greater affordability and enhanced diversity push by education loan providers, experts said.

“Since the very beginning of the pandemic, we have seen a huge uptick in the number of female students applying to universities abroad,” said Akshay Chaturvedi, founder and chief executive of study abroad platform LeverageEdu and its financial services business Fly.Finance.

Before 2020, only 21% of total applicants were female students, he said. “Today, that number stands at 49% – almost half of our applicant pool,” said Chaturvedi.

Rohan Ganeriwala, cofounder of higher education consultant Collegify, pointed to a change in mindset, where parents do not want their daughters to fall behind due to lack of exposure. “Affordability among parents is more, several financing options are available, and parents want their daughters to get global exposure and a larger world view,” he said.

Collegify has seen male to female students ratio in metros increasing from 70:30 in 2019 to 50:50 in 2022, and from 80:20 to 60:40 in tier II-III towns.

Amit Gainda, managing director and chief executive of educational loan provider Avanse Financial Services, said the number of female students the company funded from tier II and beyond was less than 10% in 2019-20. “In the current year, female contribution from these cities has grown significantly. The male to female ratio is almost equal for students funded from smaller towns,” he said.

AWorld Bank report highlighted that India has a significant proportion of women studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, accounting for at least 43% of the global cohort. “As mindsets continue to evolve, there has been a notable increase in women seeking education loans as they are ready to achieve their dreams independently,” Gainda said.

International student lender Prodigy Finance said it has seen female participation increasing by 145% on average across courses such as management, accounting, analytics, and public health, among others. The numbers are set to rise in the years to come as companies and institutions offer scholarships and other incentives to attract more female students.

“This (the trend of female students seeking admission abroad) is only going to grow, given global companies are consciously working towards a better gender ratio and, hence, we have dedicated scholarships in fields like civil engineering, architecture, etc, which have never been seen at this scale before,” Chaturvedi said.

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