Education Overseas – An Evolving Journey: Key Highlights

India By Karen Santos Oct 20, 2021

Western Union has released a new multi-generational study[1] on ‘Education Overseas – An Evolving Journey’, to understand the collective journey Indian families go through as they strive toward their child’s international education and a global future. The study, commissioned by Western Union to NielsenIQ, provides a 360-degree perspective on the rapidly changing landscape, evolving priorities, key barriers and emerging trends that impact the decision-making process of students planning to study abroad. The study also reveals some of the paradoxes, points of differences and cultural tensions in such families.

The findings highlight a considerable shift in perspective of how students and parents are now viewing options for education abroad. A majority of the students cited overall personal development as the most significant driver triggering their decision to study abroad – a belief that being in a foreign country empowers them to be independent and provides a sense of freedom. This was followed closely by ‘cultural exploration’ and ‘international exposure’ driving their decision-making process. On the other hand, ‘access to increased job opportunities’ and ‘quality of life post global education’, which have been the cited reasons until very recently, are now falling off the priority list or much lower in the consideration set.

Several interesting trends emerged from the study, showcasing the evolving priorities for Gen Z:

  • Nearly half (45%) of the student respondents prioritize ‘self-dependence’ and opportunities to ‘live life on their own terms’ as key motivations to explore international learning opportunities
  • In a break from past behavior, one in five (22%) now prefer new and unconventional study destinations like Ireland, Turkey and Spain
  • Availability of specializations like Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Marketing, Cybersecurity, Ethical Hacking and Ecotechnology are taking precedence over traditional university courses for 52% of students intending to study overseas
  • Pandemic-induced hybrid learning is now mainstream with 46% actually preferring such a model
  • Students now prioritize the opportunity to travel and explore other cultures (43%) over better job opportunities and better education
  • In terms of country of choice, while the U.S., UK, Canada and Australia continue to stand out as the top four destinations, newer destinations like Germany, Italy, Ireland, Turkey, Russia and China saw a significant rise in students preferring these countries not previously on the consideration list. As of January 2021, there were more than 10.9 lakh Indian students studying in 85 countries across the globe, as per the data accessed from MEA. Countries like China (29,600 students), Germany and France (10,000 students combined) also now have a considerable Indian student population
  • Another surprising trend was that students intending to study abroad now prefer specialized courses (52%) over the reputation of a university when making a choice. They seek courses that are niche, but slowly gaining importance, often looking beyond Ivy League Universities that are unable to offer these courses
  • Qualifying exams remain a big barrier for students (64%), leading to opting for countries/universities that do not have entrance exams or the mandatory English proficiency tests
  • Parents expressed distress related to student loans with many worrying about repaying loans owing to the volatile nature of the current landscape. Money-related concerns, particularly budgeting and financial planning, were the key barriers expressed by both students and parents, as playing a key deciding factor in the entire process. Over half (54%) identified financial issues as the topmost concern while opting for an education abroad. This also reflected in their decision to opt for courses with a shorter duration (with 47% of students preferring them) due to the high costs associated with studying abroad
  • Three in four students surveyed looked for scholarships while selecting their course, due to high tuition fees

Western Union wants to be a part of every young Indian student’s journey as they explore global learning opportunities in a ‘borderless’ world. As a trusted brand, enabling movement of money for a better world with our inbound and outbound cross-border money transfer capabilities, Western Union undertook this research to better understand students’ goals and aspirations as they navigate this journey with their families.

Western Union has been operating in India since 1993 and has a demonstrated history of creating one of the largest money movement networks. Western Union’s platform provides seamless cross-border flows and its leading network bridges 200+ countries and territories and more than 130 currencies. With its outbound remittance services via, in association with YES BANK, Western Union now aims to offer the same convenience to people sending money outside of India to major regions of the world, including North America, Europe, parts of Latin America, the Middle East and Asia Pacific, as it offers to send money into India.

[1] Western Union commissioned NielsenIQ to conduct a study targeting 807 individuals – students, parents, grandparents, career counsellors – across 12 cities between January and June 2021