To attract international students to its universities, India offers an enticing combination of cheap tuition fees, a fast-track visa system and the prospect of a high-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.

In 2018, the Indian government launched an ambitious programme to boost the country's overseas student population from 47,500 at the time to 200,000 by 2023. In 2019/20, it was reported that there were around 50,000 international students in the country.

Since then, the nation has been badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, but the main reason why this target was even deemed attainable is the fact that the higher education infrastructure in India 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.

Before committing to study in India, make sure you check the latest foreign travel advice at GOV.UK.

Indian universities

With around a thousand universities, India is well-equipped to handle a rise in the number of international students. The five main types of higher education institution are:

  • Central universities - There are currently 54 institutions controlled by central government.
  • State universities - Most of India's universities (416) are governed by one of the country's regions.
  • Deemed-to-be universities - Central government has declared 125 high-performing institutions as having a status equal to universities.
  • Institutes of National Importance (INI) - Funded by central government, there are 159 INIs. These include the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM).
  • Private universities - There are currently 361 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 eight universities (all INIs) appear in the top 500 of the QS World University Rankings 2022 (with 35 now featuring overall):

  • Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (177th)
  • Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (185th)
  • Indian Institute of Science (186th)
  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras (255th)
  • Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (277th)
  • Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur (280th)
  • Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (395th)
  • Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee (400th).

As the pattern with these institutions suggests, India is renowned for its excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. However, the country is 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 years.

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.

Masters degrees

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.

Student exchanges

The UK government has announced a new Turing Scheme for students looking to secure overseas placements and study abroad at an overseas university for the 2021/22 academic year. While India is a possible destination, your university must still have a formal agreement with a partner university.

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).

Science, technology, engineering and applied arts students can consider a 12-week paid IAESTE summer placement, while you can find more student exchange opportunities at AIESEC - India and ISEP.

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.

Course fees

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. See Numbeo for a summary of costs. However, 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.

Student visas

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.

Find out more about the visa application process at the High Commission of India in the UK. You can also visit India's Bureau of Immigration (BoI).

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 £3,155 (paid in USD), which consists of around £2,935 for the first semester's tuition fees, plus the university's non-refundable registration fee. For further semesters the fee is £1,465/£2,935 - 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.

Language requirements

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.

Comparison to UK qualifications

Higher education in India follows a similar pattern to the UK, meaning that employers will usually recognise Indian qualifications. However, it's always best to check before applying.

To discover whether your qualifications are recognised in India, visit ENIC-NARIC - Asia and the Pacific.

Find out more

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