Mysore/Mysuru: COVID-19 has come as an unprecedented challenge to international education. Just as much as it is a concern for students aspiring for the experience of studying abroad, host Universities like the University of Mysore are in distress over how to manage the deficits in budgets.
The number of foreign students in the University has drastically come down and may not cross the 100 mark this year.
When Universities abruptly shut down because of the Coronavirus pandemic, many students returned to their parents’ homes. Now though the contagion is easing and amidst the news of vaccine arrival, the number of foreign students taking admissions has not gone up.
Every year, over 300 to 400 foreign students enrol for academic programmes in the University and its affiliated colleges. But this year, only 70 of them have taken temporary admissions. A majority of foreign students, who come to Mysuru for studies, are from African countries, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, South Korea, China, Fiji, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
While Africa and India’s immediate neighbours remain a good source for foreign students, Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines are good destinations from where student flow has increased over the years because of the value proposition in India.
Under normal circumstances, over 120 to 150 students from China take admissions in the Mysore University. This year, only seven students have come from that nation. While the number of new international students has been on the decline during the past few years because of new rules limiting student visas and competition from other countries, the pandemic has been a crushing blow.
Though there are good facilities in the University including food, accommodation, medical care and consular access, there are not many takers. Even fully furnished private accommodations outside the University have not been filled up. Mysore University has an exclusive International Centre that provides appropriate support services to international faculty and students.
University sources say that admissions of foreign students have naturally declined as parents are worried about their stay if accommodations are closed and what would happen if they got sick. So, many students decided to stay home because of those unknowns.
Prof. G.R. Janardhana, Director of International Centre, told Star of Mysore that temporary admissions have been given to 70 students.
“Over 99 percent of foreign students who returned home in March have come back and those who preferred to stay here were provided with facilities in the international guest house. Those students who completed their final year have returned home along with their certificates,” he said.
He added that the data of foreign students who have taken admissions in colleges affiliated to the University have to be collated to find out the exact number of students.
The success of Mysuru as a study abroad destination will depend on two factors — how soon we slow down the spread of Coronavirus, and how soon regular international flight operations starts. In the absence of physical travel, many other Universities have already helped foreign students study through digital medium. The University of Mysore too must focus on this, said experts.