India overtakes China as largest source country for international students

India has overtaken China as the world's largest source country of international students

Dec 18, 2021
Indin students in US

India has overtaken China as the world's largest source country of international students.  The numbers of new students from China are still below what they were pre-pandemic. But for some source countries, such as India and Nigeria, numbers are at record levels, new research by the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia shows.     

According to an article in The Conversation, international students are heading to Canada, the UK and the US in record numbers despite the pandemic, 

New international students from India have also increased by about 27% compared to pre-pandemic levels. Behind this increase lie shifts in student choices.

The number of Indian international students going to Australia, however, fell by 62% in the 12 months to September 2021 compared to 2019. In contrast, new Indian international students to the UK more than doubled, jumping by 174%, the study noted. 

The UK has recovered the strongest. Its number of new international students is at record levels – 38% higher than pre-COVID. But Australia and New Zealand continue to experience a dramatic drop in new international students.

The research reveals a complex situation where the pandemic affected international students from around the world differently. The report highlights the renewed emphasis countries are placing on attracting international students as a source of revenue for their education sector.

In a post-pandemic environment, governments are seeking to grow and foster their international education sectors. In the US, the Biden administration announced a “renewed commitment to international education” in July 2021. The UK government is aiming for a 75% increase in the value of international education by 2030.

Losing international students can have a big impact on education institutions, especially universities, The Conversation article by Peter Hurley and Melindra Hildebrandt noted (for details see the