Is Nepal becoming an important growth market for higher education?
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Is Nepal becoming an important growth market for higher education?

Is Nepal becoming an important growth market for higher education?

Nepali students are flocking abroad for their higher education in droves, with their numbers increasing each year.

In August, Nepali Sansar reported that the country’s Foreign Education Department Chief Girman Thapa said 323,972 Nepali students sought permission to study abroad. From this figure, 63,359 students applied for higher education overseas. 

Official government statistics note that just over 16,500 students studied abroad in 2013/14; the figure rose to nearly 63,000 in 2017/18.

In July, the Nepali Times reported that Nepali students going abroad for higher studies spent 19.7 percent more in the past year compared to the previous one, reaching Rs40.09 billion (approximately US$351 million at the time of writing).

Five years ago, only 25,025 Nepali students studied abroad, spending Rs15.12 billion (US$132 million).

Do these numbers suggest that Nepal is poised to become an important growth market for international higher education?

Which study abroad locations to Nepali students flock to?

Nepal is one of the 48 least developed countries (LDC) in the world but hopes to graduate to a developing country by 2022.

However, the country was rocked by a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2015, followed by strong aftershocks. The earthquake also triggered deadly avalanches. 

Nearly 9,000 lives were claimed and over half a million homes were destroyed. Buildings were reduced to rubble, with historical sites and education institutions among those damaged; Nepal’s economy is expected to take years to recover and billions to rebuild the country and help it bounce back.

The country’s developments have been moving at a glacial pace, hampered by factors such as partisan squabbling, among other reasons, making it unsurprising why Nepali students who can afford to study abroad are doing so in droves. 

Australia has proven to be a popular study abroad destination for Nepali students, with 60 percent of the more than 63,000 students choosing the Land Down Under. Other popular study abroad destinations include Japan, Cyprus, India, China, Canada, the US, New Zealand, South Korea and UAE, notes the Nepali Times.

Maheswar Sharma of the MoE office that distributes no-objection certificates, was quoted saying by the Nepali Times: “The reason more students are going abroad is that they know they can also work while enrolled.” 

Nepali students make the third-largest source of international students in Australia, behind China and India. 

Speaking to the Brisbane Times, Salvatore Babones, an adjunct fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies and associate professor at the University of Sydney, said Nepali students were likely coming to Australia as the country “is willing to give a visa to anyone willing to raise the money to study abroad”

“And even so, 20 percent [of Nepalese applicants] are getting rejected – presumably on financial grounds,” he was quoted saying.

However, he opined that this could be problematic to students, as wages in Nepal are low while “the job prospects for Australian-educated students are so bad in Nepal that most of these students will never recoup the costs of their diplomas and degrees through legitimate channels”.

The same report notes that Nepalese students who come to Australia overwhelmingly choose New South Wales (NSW). In the 12 months to October, nearly two-thirds of total Nepali enrolments were in NSW, a trend the Brisbane Times noted to be more pronounced than Indian students’ preference for Melbourne over Sydney.

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