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Indian students flock to Europe as big four falter by Abhishek Nair

Indian students flock to Europe as big four falter by Abhishek Nair

After years of vying for top universities across the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia, Indian students are now choosing Europe to pursue higher education and work opportunities.

Indian students and researchers are finding opportunities in EU countries as the appetite traditional destinations wanes. Countries like Germany, Italy, France, Finland, and Ireland are witnessing a record number of students from India. 

The interest in Europe is further highlighted by the fact that 146 Indian students received the Erasmus scholarship this year, making the cohort the largest beneficiary of the program – with over 2,000 students receiving the scholarship since 2004. 

France, which is the biggest recipient of Erasmus students from India with 31 this year, has already set a broader target of attracting 30,000 Indian students by 2030. 

The ambitious plan, promoted by French President Emmanuel Macron, aims to develop a network of Alliance Francaises across India to promote French, launching Classes Internationales for Indian students to learn French for a year before pursuing their degree, and easing the visa process for students who studied in France. 

“I think that France has a lot to offer to Indian students, and they would benefit a lot from looking at options as early as during their Bachelors. We offer excellence in many domains at a very affordable cost, and have over 1,700 programs not requiring French, which would allow a student to be trained well while eventually learning French on the side,” said Maud Le Bars, South Asia area manager, Omnes Education. 

Omnes Education, one of the largest private higher education institutions in France, is already taking measures to attract more Indian students. 

“We ensured that our campuses were English-speaking ready by developing a network of referents to provide customised service to our Indian students and their peers,” Maud told The PIE News

“For career support, the school has an impressive network of 10,000 companies for 40,000 students. We organise over 100 career events [per] year. We have also worked on customising some of those activities to cater to the needs of our Indian students and French corporate partners interested in India.” 

Germany is not far behind, with over 43,000 Indian students enrolled in German universities in 2024 – a 100% increase over the last five years. 

The DAAD has been spearheading that growth through its operations in major cities across India. 

“DAAD mainly promotes academic exchange by providing scholarships to Indian students. We also conduct information sessions, webinars, fairs, and seminars to provide information about studying in Germany. DAAD also fosters collaborations between Indian and German universities for joint programs and exchange opportunities,” said Dhanashree Deodhar, regional officer, DAAD. 

But requirements such as the Akademische Prüfstelle certificate have led to visa delays and deferred intakes for Germany-bound Indian students, as previously reported by The PIE. 

Though the German Embassy has seen a faster approval rate for APS applications in recent months, DAAD India is working to address any delays. 

“They have been in discussions to find solutions that can help reduce the waiting time and make the application process smoother for students. Efforts include increasing staffing and improving administrative procedures to handle the high volume of applications more efficiently,” stated Deodhar. 

As Germany grapples with labour shortages, the country is also looking to make its labour market more attractive for international students from India.  

“Special programs are being implemented to actively support students in learning German, as required by companies. Additionally, companies are highly encouraged to make presentations to attract students for internships and projects,” said Hannover-based Dr. Bala Ramani, an expert on Indo-German relations and skilled workforce. 

“Based on my own experience of nearly 25 years, since arriving in Germany as a PhD student, I see the Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement as a significant step in the right direction, and it can only improve. I sincerely hope the upcoming Intergovernmental Consultation will be a great success in further strengthening the partnership between Germany and India.” 

According to numbers shared by Uni-Italia, the official Italian centre promoting higher education in Italy, there are currently over 10,000 Indian students studying in Italy, with a 10% growth in applications each year. 

“Uni-Italia facilitates collaborations between Indian HE institutions and Italian HE institutions for long-term and short-term student mobility. There are around 250 existing [memorandums of understanding] between Indian HEI and Italian HEI, which is facilitating direct, smoother mobility, with a sense of assurance for the parents,” said Pooja Dodeja, manager, Uni-Italia Mumbai. 

“Uni-Italia is working to maximise this outcome by providing support in this journey, and working actively on expanding the network even more, beyond just Tier 1 cities in the last couple of years,” added Dodeja.

Study visa processing in India has also improved, with the “wait time being reduced by 40% since 2021”, according to vice consul for Italy in Mumbai, Luigi Cascone. 

In recent years, courses such as Economics and Management have been the most popular among Indian students, followed by Engineering, Architecture, Arts, and Design, according to Dodeja. 

Italian institutions have also set up branches in India to have an on-ground presence amid the high growth. 

“In the last academic year, close to 90 students took up Master’s courses at Domus Academy Milano and for the academy year 2024/25 that number will likely reach 100 from India and the subcontinent.

“India remains a key market for academies such as Domus Academy to recruit good quality design/creative talent,” said Joel Alphonso, area manager India, Subcontinent & Gulf, Domus Academy Milano.

According to Alphonso, Italy’s increasing appeal in India can be attributed to the former’s focus on academic-industry interface especially in creative industries and associated study programs. 

With most institutions having English-driven programs, integrated academic internships, and post-study work options for up to a year, Italy has a lot going for it – but some challenges remain, stressed Alphonso. 

“Misconception about needing to know Italian, and lack of awareness that job opportunities are wider in the European area and graduates can explore careers more readily are some of the challenges,” added Joel. 

Once home to just 700 students, over 8,000 Indian students call Ireland home in 2024. 

The country, which shares borders with one of the biggest international education markets, has been stepping up resources to position itself as the first choice for international learners and researchers. 

“Ireland has become a preferred study destination for international students, especially those from India. Firstly, Irish institutions consistently perform well in global rankings, ensuring an exceptional standard of education across various fields at affordable tuition. Secondly, graduates can explore work opportunities across many sectors here, a major draw for young professionals,” said Wendy Dsouza, senior VP – India and South Asia, Enterprise Ireland. 

Abhishek Nair is a freelance journalist based out of Mumbai, with experience in covering sports and education across India. He has completed his post graduation in Communication and Journalism, and has been covering international education for the past two years. He loves travelling to different cities, spending time with his dog and is keenly interested in understanding global politics.

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