To attract international students to its abundance of universities, India’s offering an enticing mix of cheap tuition fees, a fast-track visa system and the promise of a top quality education
While India has always been proud of its standing as a nation committed to the pursuit of knowledge, in recent times it has fallen behind other leading countries in attracting the world’s top scholars.
However, the government has launched an ambitious programme to boost the country’s overseas student population from around 45,000 to 200,000 by 2023.
This is made more attainable by the fact that the higher education infrastructure in the country is already vast. So those considering studying here will find they have plenty of options. Unlike most of its Asian competitors, all Masters courses and many Bachelors programmes are taught in English – one of India’s two official languages.
India’s warm and welcoming population will make settling in easy. If you’re adventurous, you could trek the Himalayan Mountains or Rajasthan desert. You could also visit one of the nation’s many cosmopolitan cities, such as Mumbai, New Delhi or Bengaluru, sampling the unique local cuisine or watching a Bollywood movie.
With around 900 universities, India is well-equipped to handle a rise in the number of international students arriving at its shores. The five main types of higher education institution are:
- Central universities – There are currently 49 institutions controlled by central government.
- State universities – Most of India’s universities (399) are governed by one of the country’s regions.
- Deemed-to-be universities – Central government has declared 37 high-performing institutions as having a status equal to universities.
- Institutes of National Importance (INI) – Funded by central government, there are 91 INIs. These include the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM).
- Private universities – There are currently 330 privately established and funded institutions.
Read more about the structure of India’s higher education system at the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) – University and Higher Education.
You can also find out about the different university types by exploring the subcategories at the University Grants Commission – Central Universities.
Despite India possessing one of the world’s largest higher education systems, only nine universities – all except for one being an INI – appear in the top 500 of the QS World University Rankings 2019 (with 24 featuring overall):
- Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (162nd)
- Indian Institute of Science (170th)
- Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (172nd)
- Indian Institute of Technology Madras (264th)
- Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (283rd)
- Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur (295th)
- Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee (381st)
- Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (472nd)
- University of Delhi (487th).
As the pattern with these institutions suggests, India is renowned for its excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. However, the country’s also rapidly growing a reputation for providing quality programmes in business management, medicine and the arts.
Unfortunately, bogus institutions are not uncommon in India. To avoid being duped, check the university you’re considering is recognised. For more information, see the University Grants Commission – Fake Universities.
The Indian academic year is split into two semesters (autumn and spring) and typically runs from July to April/May.
Degree courses in India
In terms of structure and assessment, Bachelors programmes in India are similar to their UK counterparts. For example, they usually last for three years, with some programmes – notably those in STEM and law – lasting for four or five. Popular courses include:
- Bachelor of Architecture
- Bachelor of Business Administration
- Bachelor of Engineering
- Bachelor of Journalism
- Bachelor of Laws
- Bachelor of Medicine
- Bachelor of Science
- Bachelor of Technology.
Search Indian Bachelors degrees at Study In India – List of Institutes/Universities.
Taught Masters degrees usually last for one or two years, with research programmes lasting three. Courses in IT, medicine and business are commonplace, with the Master of Business Administration (MBA) particularly popular.
Masters degrees in India are broadly similar in structure to those in the UK, with typical assessment methods including essays, exams and a dissertation.
Search Masters degrees at Study In India – List of Institutes/Universities.
Like in the UK, PhDs usually take three years to complete. However, in India you may be assessed through essays and exams – as well as by thesis.
Entry requirements include a relevant Masters, though you may also be accepted with a first-class undergraduate degree and extensive, relevant professional experience.
Search PhDs at Study In India – List of Institutes/Universities.
UK undergraduates can learn about India’s culture and history by pursuing a four-week placement through the UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI).
Also, science, technology, engineering and applied arts students at Durham University, Cardiff University, Imperial College London or any institution in Northern Ireland or Scotland can consider a 12-week paid IAESTE summer placement.
You can find more student exchange opportunities at:
Some UK universities may offer exchange programmes with Indian universities. For instance, SOAS University of London runs an India Student Exchange Programme with three law universities. Law students at the university will get to spend a summer in Hyderabad, Cuttack or New Delhi.
To discover whether your university is partnered with an Indian institution, and to get more information on funding and applications, visit your international office.
Tuition fees in India are much cheaper than in the UK and many other popular study abroad destinations. Indian universities set their own fees, but they typically fall between £2,500 and £6,000 per year for international students.
As the low cost of living is appealing to foreign students, you can comfortably survive on an annual budget of £3,500. It’s important to be aware that international students cannot work while studying.
Funding to study in India
With the Indian government’s push to bring in more international students, there are plenty of scholarships available.
Firstly, UK nationals should investigate the scholarships offered by the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU).
You may also be eligible for scholarships issued by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), with the General Scholarship Scheme (GSS) its most popular award.
Read more about the GSS and other available scholarships at Study In India – Fee Waivers and Concessions.
The MHRD covers student funding on its informative Scholarships and Education Loan page, which provides details on both national and external scholarships.
All foreign nationals entering India require a visa. The Student Visa (S) can be issued for either the length of your studies or a maximum period of five years, and is obtained from the Indian Embassy or High Commission in your home country.
To secure a visa, you must present an unconditional offer of a place on a full-time course from a recognised Indian university – for a list of approved institutions, see the All Indian Council for Technical Education (AICTE).
All supporting documentation, including proof of a passport with at least six months validity, should be submitted alongside your application form, which can be found at Indian Visa Online. A student visa valid for up to five years will cost £156 to UK passport holders.
How to apply
Online applications are usually made directly to the university, well in advance of the course start date.
However, students looking to embark on an undergraduate degree in engineering and architecture can apply to central universities – including INIs – using the centralised Direct Admission of Students Abroad (DASA) admissions service. If you’re interested in doing a postgraduate course and are planning on studying one of these two subjects or management, you’re also encouraged to apply through the DASA scheme portal.
The application cost is approximately £3,250 (paid in USD), which consists of around £3,000 for the first semester’s tuition fees, plus the university’s non-refundable registration fee. For further semesters the fee is £1,500/£3,000 – with the exact amount depending on the course/institution.
To find out the application procedure for a particular Indian university, search by institution/course at Study In India.
The official languages of India are Hindi and English, but many others are spoken throughout the country. The native tongue is usually dependent on the region – see Maps of India.
However, all university courses are taught in English – if this isn’t your native language, you may be required to sit a proficiency test. Find out more at IELTS.
Studying in India will change your life forever, and not in the same way studying abroad anywhere else in the world will. You will see and experience things that open your eyes to a whole new manifestation of life in our modern age. Studying abroad in India means facing the entire spectrum of the human spirit, experience, and resilience (and all the good and the bad that comes with it). And trust me — it is sooo worth it. Expect to return home a more informed and well-rounded person because of it. I know I sure did.
For those who are singing my Bollywood tune ;-), let’s rejoice in these ten reasons why studying abroad in India will be one of the best decisions you ever make.
1. It is a developing country.
Unless particularly well traveled, many college students from the industrialized world have not had the privilege of living in a developing country. Many study abroad programs in India will be a crash course in the nature of the social, economic, and infrastructural challenges that are faced by the majority of the world’s population living in poverty today. With nearly 1.3 billion people, India is one of the world’s largest and poorest countries. Exposure to urban life in India will be a very grounding experience to say the least.
2. It has a growing economy.
The silver lining to India’s current challenges related to poverty is that the country continues to see steady progress and growth. Though plagued by stark levels of inequality (like much of the developing, and developed, world), India lays claim to a significant degree of wealth as well. Cities like Mumbai and New Delhi are booming as the country gradually integrates into the global economy. The ceiling is sky high for India, and it is a very exciting time to witness, as the next generation continues to seek new and innovative ways to tap its vast potential.
3. It is easy to get involved on campus.
On the latter note about India’s population of young people, studying abroad at an Indian university and making friends with peers from halfway across the world will be an incredibly rewarding experience. Many Indian colleges use English as the medium of education, making it possible to fully immerse yourself in campus life. If you make the effort to reach out and meet new people, you can become a part of the youthful wave which is helping usher India into a new era.
4. It has great opportunities for global networking.
The connections you make while studying abroad in India do not have to stop with your Indian peers. There are many opportunities to become involved in the public or private spheres as an international student in India, where you can gain practical experience within a deeply enriching work environment. Interning or volunteering in your field of interest in tandem with your studies is a great way to meet new people, contribute to change, and sow the seeds for a future international career.
5. It provides an education beyond the walls of a classroom.
Beyond the classroom walls, you will find that daily life in India becomes a highly educational experience by exposing you to a very unique cultural context. While you can make an argument for the distinctiveness of every country’s national character, even then India remains on a plateau of its own. You cannot formulate what life is like in India until you experience it and even then it is hard to put into words. Life in India is equal parts inspiring, frustrating, and shocking.
Every day studying abroad in India will bring its own life lesson.
6. It has a complex history worth knowing about.
A huge part of these lessons stem from the country’s dense and complicated history. Most travelers do not know much about India’s past beyond the surface level. While studying abroad in India you will come to understand its mythical foundations through the Mahabharata, its centuries of warfare under the rule of kings and sultans, and its modern struggle for independence from the British Raj. Ancient temples, beautiful palaces, and sweeping fortresses all remain standing relics of India’s epic past.
7. It is filled with affordable travel opportunities.
Since India is such an inexpensive place to live and study abroad, you will have the chance to enjoy frequent and affordable travel throughout the country, and you should explore as much of the country and its history as possible. From the sprawling tea estates of Darjeeling to the holy Ganges River in Varanasi to the Taj Mahal in Agra, you will have your hands full trying to reach as much of this incredibly diverse country as time allows. It is impossible to see everything, but by riding trains, planes, and rickshaws you will become quite the seasoned traveler if you try.
8. It will provide you with enlightenment (or something like it).
India is a deeply religious place, and whether you are a spiritual person or not, your experiences traveling across the countryside and immersing yourself in the flow of life cannot help but lead to some metaphysical musings. The conversations you will have, the things you will see, the preconceptions you will let go of, your entire trip will make for a quasi-enlightening experience, as the world you thought you knew will change before you. Prior to returning home, you will be equipped with an entirely new perspective on life in our modern age.
9. It will require significant readjustment.
Talk to most people who have studied abroad in India and they will tell you that the most difficult part is adjusting to life back at home. Reverse culture shock may seem like a strange thing to include as a positive reason to study abroad in India, but this is a very important part of the process. You might be disillusioned for a while, returning to the introverted perspective of whatever place you call home. Be it weeks, months, or years down the line, the experience of leaving and returning home, and adjusting successfully to both, will become fully integrated into your more mature global outlook on life.
10. It will never leave you.
And at long last comes the finished product: studying abroad in India will inspire you to travel more, to learn more, and to become the best version of yourself. The connections you make, the experiences you have, the realizations you have will all blend into a piece of yourself that will remain powerfully active as life moves on.
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