Pull and Push – Analyzing outward migration for higher education | 17th January 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the key findings of a recently released report by the USA on foreign students. It provides key insights regarding Indian students' migration to the US for higher education.


  • GS2: Issues related to education;
  • GS3: Effects of globalisation on Indian Economy;
  • Prelims


  • The University Grants Commission (UGC) has recently announced draft norms for facilitating foreign universities and educational institutions to set up campuses in India which allow them autonomy in determining fees, as well as a 90-day approval process.
  • This is being done to provide quality higher education in India and thus to retain the Indian talent pool in India itself.
  • Recently, the US State Department and the non-profit Institute of International Education released a report on foreign students studying in the USA.
  • This data offers interesting insights regarding Indian students.


  • Indian students in the USA are staying back to join the local labour market. For example, in 2021-22, nearly 35 per cent of the 1.99 lakh Indian students in American universities stayed back.
  • One takeaway from this, for the UGC, is that merely paving the way for campuses of prestigious foreign universities may not be enough to retain talent in the country.
  • Planners need to find ways to link the reforms in education with the job market.
  • But this task cannot be left only to the government — industry bodies will also need to contribute to this endeavour.
  • The trends related to Indian students in US campuses hold for their peers who seek education in other parts of the developed world.

Brain Drain or Human capital flight:

  • The brain drain is the migration of highly educated persons from one country to another. In our case it is from India to developed countries such as US, EU, Australia, etc.
  • Push factors for brain drain:
    • Lack of quality higher education opportunities in India.
    • Low spending on research in India.
    • Low Wages in India.
    • Non-recognition of talent in India.
  • Pull Factors for brain drain:
    • Better standard of living and life quality in developed countries.
    • Migrant-friendly policies of developed countries.
    • Easy availabity of jobs.
  • Measures taken by the Government to tackle the brain drain from India:
    • Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) Programme
    • The Ramanujan Fellowship – It is meant for brilliant Indian scientists from outside India to take up scientific research positions in India.
    • The Ramalingaswamy Fellowship – It provides a platform to scientists who are willing to return and work in India.
    • Vaishvik Bharatiya Vaigyanik (VAIBHAV) summit – Under this, Numerous overseas Indian-origin academicians and Indians participated to form ideas on innovative solutions to several challenges.
  • Last year, an OECD report on international migration patterns pointed out that Indians studying in economically developed countries are the most likely among all foreign students to join the local workforce.
  • The transition rates from study permits to work permits were far higher in Indians compared to the Chinese — students from the two countries constitute the lion’s share of the foreign students in campuses in the US, UK, Australia and other developed countries.
  • For decades, engineering institutes held the highest attraction for Indian students in the US.
  • The trend began to change about seven years ago.
  • Data for the last academic year, 2021-2022, show that 38 per cent of Indian students in American campuses study mathematics and computer sciences and about 30 per cent are enrolled in engineering courses.
  • The OECD report shows that this trend holds for Indian students attending universities in other parts of the developed world.
  • This, of course, is in line with the increased demand, globally, for skills related to digital technology, data analysis and cyber security.

Way Forward:

  • The role of Indian talent in powering global technology powerhouses is well-known.
  • At the same time, the country that aspires to become a $5 trillion economy by 2025 cannot afford to keep losing home-grown talent.
  • In the coming months and years, as planners give shape to the NEP’s vision, addressing this vexing question cannot be postponed.

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