To attract international students to its abundance of universities, India's offering an enticing mix of cheap tuition fees, a fast-track visa system and the promise of a top 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.
However, the government has launched an ambitious programme to boost the country's overseas student population from around 45,000 to 200,000 by 2023.
This is made more attainable by the fact that the higher education infrastructure in the country 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.
With around 900 universities, India is well-equipped to handle a rise in the number of international students arriving at its shores. The five main types of higher education institution are:
- Central universities - There are currently 49 institutions controlled by central government.
- State universities - Most of India's universities (399) are governed by one of the country's regions.
- Deemed-to-be universities - Central government has declared 37 high-performing institutions as having a status equal to universities.
- Institutes of National Importance (INI) - Funded by central government, there are 91 INIs. These include the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM).
- Private universities - There are currently 330 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 nine universities - all except for one being an INI - appear in the top 500 of the QS World University Rankings 2019 (with 24 featuring overall):
- Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (162nd)
- Indian Institute of Science (170th)
- Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (172nd)
- Indian Institute of Technology Madras (264th)
- Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (283rd)
- Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur (295th)
- Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee (381st)
- Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (472nd)
- University of Delhi (487th).
As the pattern with these institutions suggests, India is renowned for its excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. However, the country's 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. 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.
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.
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).
Also, science, technology, engineering and applied arts students at Durham University, Cardiff University, Imperial College London or any institution in Northern Ireland or Scotland can consider a 12-week paid IAESTE summer placement.
You can find more student exchange opportunities at:
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.
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. 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.
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. A student visa valid for up to five years will cost £156 to UK passport holders.
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 £3,250 (paid in USD), which consists of around £3,000 for the first semester's tuition fees, plus the university’s non-refundable registration fee. For further semesters the fee is £1,500/£3,000 - 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.
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.