In Covid year, Gujarat universities record highest number of students from abroad

Among the new countries from where students have joined Gujarat’s state-run and privately-run universities are Cameroon, Lesotho, Madagascar, Hungary, Togo, Syria and South Sudan. The students are attending online classes from their respective countries.

The number of foreign students who took admissions in the universities of Gujarat has nearly doubled this year to 2,290 from 1,195 the previous year, marking the highest so far, notwithstanding the Covid pandemic.

Among the new countries from where students have joined Gujarat’s state-run and privately-run universities are Cameroon, Lesotho, Madagascar, Hungary, Togo, Syria and South Sudan. The students are attending online classes from their respective countries.

“This is the highest number of foreign students in Gujarat so far. All these years there were very few students that reached up to nearly 1,200 last year,” said Principal Secretary, Education, Anju Sharma, adding that the number may rise further as universities were still collating data.

Among the foreign enrolments in 20 universities, the highest percentage jump was registered at the Ahmedabad-based Gujarat University, where nearly 200 foreign students joined, compared to 50 last year.

The spike in admissions is being credited to the aggressive ‘Study in Gujarat (SIG)’ campaign launched by the Gujarat government in 2019.

Among the four universities that saw a higher number of foreign student enrolments, two are from Vadodara — MS University and private-run Parul University.

In Parul University, admissions went up from 350 in 2019-’20 to over 1,150 students of 55 nationalities in 2020-’21, while in MSU it went up from 85 to nearly 150 and at the National Forensic Sciences University (formerly Gujarat Forensic Science University), from 25 to nearly 100. All classes, except for medical and para-medical courses, are being held online.

“The SIG campaign aggressively pitched Gujarat’s universities in foreign countries where the entire state education machinery along with representatives of universities toured several countries early this year. Though it had to be cut short due to the Covid pandemic, the encouraging results are in front of us,” said Sharma.

Among the oldest public universities in the state, MSU has admitted 142 students from 37 countries. Among these, 70 are self-funded, while 72 are through the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). Students from first-time countries in MSU include Burundi (4), South Sudan (2) and one each from Hungary, Madagascar, Lesotho, Togo and Syria.

MSU director of international affairs, Prof Dhanesh Patel, said, “It is the personal care we take of international students at MSU that has created a brand for the university in countries represented by these students. Numbers getting doubled this year can also be due to the Study in Gujarat campaign that MSU actively participated in.”

Majority of the students in MSU are from Bangladesh, while there is no enrolment from regular countries such as Nepal, Bhutan, South Africa and Thailand.

Admissions from Ivory Coast saw a considerable spike where 12 students came this year, compared to two in 2019. Five students have joined from Cameroon from where no one joined last year.

The most preferred faculties among foreign students is Commerce with 29 students opting for it followed by Fine Arts and Performing Arts with 22 and 17 students respectively.

Parul University started with 109 foreign admissions in 2014 and steadily increased to over 450 in 2019 and 1,150 this year. Prof MN Patel, Vice-Chancellor of Parul University, said that its active participation in the state government’s SIG campaign had a “definite impact” in achieving these numbers.

“When there is a government backing and team supporting us, the credibility and image get a boost. Many in the foreign land would doubt the university’s credentials and status but when they see the state government logo and support, it is a different case… This is how SIG campaign played a role in recording the numbers from over 450 to over 1,150 students within a single year,” Patel said.

Detailing the initiatives taken keeping foreign students in mind during Covid times, the VC said, “Parul Institute of Medical Science and Research is the first private medical college in Gujarat to start Covid-19 testing starting from scratch… establishing a molecular lab, procuring PCR machine and kits, developing all protocols and getting NABL accreditation and finally getting ICMR nod… this has instilled confidence among foreign national students.”

The university had also sought special permission from the MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) for approval of foreign nationals travelling to the university for higher education (medical and para medical postgraduate students) amid the pandemic.

The highest number of students at Parul University are from Nepal (313) followed by Zimbabwe (212), Tanzania (94) and Bangladesh (76), while countries such as Australia, Germany, Russia, USA and UK also made fresh entries.

Dhaval Gaud, director International Students Affairs Cell, said that the university has made great strides in attracting students from developed economies such as Germany, Russia, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Thailand, Mauritius and Indonesia. Modern food court hosting major international brands is among the initiatives added to attract foreign students.

Prof Himanshu Pandya, Vice-Chancellor of Gujarat University, one of the oldest and largest state universities, too, credited the SIG campaign for the “impressive” hike in number of foreign admissions.

Under SIG, on the lines of central government’s Study in India campaign, almost 13 roadshows were organised in Dubai, Muscat, Riyadh, Kuwait, Nepal, Kenya, Ethiopia, Bhutan, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, and Bangladesh to spread awareness about educational infrastructure and opportunities in Gujarat.

These roadshows were led by a high-level delegation from January 15 to 22 this year by Gujarat Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama and principal secretary education Anju Sharma. A total of 28 universities partnered with the state government and will act as representatives.

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