Piyush Kumar joined IDP Education in 2015 as the Country Director for India and was further appointed as the Regional Director for South Asia in 2017. He heads IDP’s operations in the region and oversees the execution of business strategy and manages the operating and service performance across Student placement as well as IELTS. Autar Nehru spoke with him on IDP India and current trends.
You have been in an expansion mode recently and have opened offices in many of the cities now, why do you feel there was such a need given online services is now a reality and can be availed from anywhere?
IDP Education India as you rightly say is present across the length and breadth of country. We now have 67 office across 60 cities and of these 27 were added in December-January months. Why we opened these offices in tier 2 and tier 3 cities is because we see a trend that students from these cities are also very much interested in study board options. We were getting a lot of inquiries from these places. Now virtual office do offer connect and access but a lot of times people want face to face discussion and in person consultation. Study board is a major decision and costs a lot of money, so families especially the parents want to come and have a face to face meeting with the counselor who is advising the student to get the confidence that their decisio is right . This is why we have said that all of our offices will only channel offices where people can connect physically as well as virtually to get advice.
Are these consultation services chargeable?
No, all our consultation services are absolutely free, anyone can walk in and get advice from our people. For USA, there is a very nominal registration charge. That’s about it.
You say the trend to study abroad is surging, do you see particular regions, where the demand is coming more?
Actually, it is absolutely uniform from across India. That is why you see our office everywhere in north, west, south and eastern India. The demand is from everywhere.
After IDP Education acquired IELTS in India, has this helped your visibility? And what about the test centres?
IELTS is only an English proficiency test required for visa and admission in countries where the medium of education is English. We have taken this test to every nook and corner of the country and currently it is being administered from 75 locations and we are the largest testing network for this test. That has an advantage for our brand.
Are you offering any IELTS related preparation courses etc?
No, IDP doesn’t do that. We only facilitate admission in university abroad to six English speaking countries—USA, UK, Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand.
Why is there such a huge demand for International education in India?
One, India is such a young country. Currently 330 million children are in schools, imagine when all these students pass out of schools and go to higher education, how much is that. Now in our country problem number one is we don’t have enough colleges and problem number two is quality of education in many of our institutions is not up to the mark. The second aspect that is pushing this demand is getting finance is much easier now for your international eduction, anyway the income levels are rising and second banks are very open to giving loans. So most of the parents in India who anyway place a lot of emphasis on education want to give their children best. Even students themselves don’t want to study in third rate colleges and if they get admission in best colleges in foreign counties, they go for it. even studnts want best possible edu. They don’t eant to study in 3rd rate college in India and if they are good studtns and get admission in world class instutons abroad, they definely fo for it. The core problem, I would say is we don’t have enough good quality institutions in the country
How has Covid affected international education and what is the situation now?
When the first wave came in 2020, lot of countries closed their borders. Students were not able to travel and there was a lot of fear at that pointof time, so ye,s students were in wait and wach situation and many had started studying online. But last one year or I would say 9-12 months, the fear is no longer as it used to be as in the first year. After coming of vaccine, countries across the world are opening and we are clearly seeing a trend where students are returning to campuses. My take is this year will see a record of highest number of students going abroad after having been stuck for almost two years.
What will be the future of online courses in this segment (Study abroad)?
Our survey shows that more than 90% students want to attend physical classes because study board is not only about the subject but getting that holistic experience of staying in a different country, adopting to a culture of different county, have the experience of making friends from various nationalities. In contrast, online is just sitting in your room and joining virtual classes, it doesn’t give you that exposure in person in a foreign land or a physical classroom, I don’t see too much future of online education as far as international education is concerned
CUET is being implemented for admissions to central universities in India and in this board marks carry no weightage. Now, how will this impact study abroad given that students may not seriously prepare for boards now?
It will impact, typically, if you want to study abroad you don’t need to sit for an entrance exam but your board exam marks are important and a deciding factor coupled with some other things like essay or statement of purpose and extracurricular record etc. So board exams results will continue to be important for going aboard to study.
You made an important point. Apart from marks, what else must students who are interested in studying abroad care about?
Apart from good marks, these students need to focus on holistic personality development. For instance, many intuitions want to see how good are you at extracurricular activities, they also want to see how clear is your thought process, why do you want to and come study with them. They make you write couple of short essays or statement of purpose just to evaluate your seriousness and sincerity in pursuing education with them.
Do you hold some counseling programs with schools as well?
Yes, we go to various schools and give presentation to children there on what is required for study abroad, dos and don’ts, how to prepare, etc. We regularly do these kinds of seminars in various schools in India.
A lot of students studying medicine have returned from Ukraine. Why is there so much rush to study medicine in lesser known destinations?
Medicine is one area, where in India there too many students but too few seats. Many students who aspire want to pursue medicine go to so many countries across the world which surprisingly includes even Nepal and Bangladesh, eastern Europe and China etc. But what has happened in Ukraine or China (not allowing students to return) is one a lifetime happening and can’t be planned for. These students are being helped and hope they are able to tide over this crisis.
Any word of caution?
Students should chose destinations as per Govt of India regulations and advisories, check track record of the college/university where you are seeking admission by looking at things like how old is it, feedback from alumni and other sources of information.
In case of popular destinations that you deal with, what are some of the popular courses?
In India, ¾ or 75% students going aboard are STEM stream students and the remaining 25% are humanities, management etc. The bulk is in engineering and science but now programs like healthcare management, physiotherapy, data science, cyber security are also becoming quite popular.
Why do feel these are exciting times for study abroad option?
Any student who wants to go abroad, this is perhaps best period. The reason why I say this is perhaps is that for the first time destination countries are welcoming international students with open arms, they are giving lot of flexibility and benefits to these students including post study work visa etc. It has never ever happened say in big counties like US, UK, Canada, Australia trying to give benefits and woo students to their countries , so I would saw this is the best possible time and they should make use of it.
Anything else you want to add?
As we have expanded to tier 2 & 3 cities to serve our students to the best of our abilities, our focus remains on our customers. We have a passion to help our students to get the best and as significant number of students will be served by us, we promise them all best possible support.