The number of students going abroad excluding India has decreased substantially. Two years ago, out of the roughly 27 thousand students who went overseas, nineteen thousand went to the UK alone. The figure for the last fiscal year was slightly less than twelve thousand. The primary reason for the decline is the tightening of visa policy by foreign embassies, mainly US, UK, and Australia. The governments in these countries have also decreased the number of working hours allowed to international students. The reduction in working hours has compelled a few to return home because they could not afford the expenses there.
There are two ways of looking at the reduction in number of students going abroad. This will decrease the flow of foreign currency going out of the country. Estimates show that two years ago, Rs 70 billion left the country as payment for higher education. Fewer students going overseas will have a positive impact on the capital outflow with proportionately less money going abroad. However, this is not completely certain. The government does not keep a record of students going to India for higher education. It is quite possible that those with resources go to Western countries, but unable to do so because of strict visa requirements, will chose India as the next best destination. In order to formulate future education policy, the government should make an effort to collect reliable data on students going to India for educational purposes. That India is becoming relatively more attractive can be seen from the orientation of educational consultancies specialising in sending students abroad and the numerous educational fairs in the capital promoting Indian degrees and universities. On the other hand, very few students who attend Western universities chose to return and make a career in Nepal. Those studying in India are more likely to return and reverse, at least partly, the so-called “brain drain.”
It is worthwhile to note that those who can afford to send their children abroad are overwhelmingly upper-middle class and upper class families. Barring a few scholarships, most lower class families have to rely on universities in Kathmandu or colleges in districts for higher education. Ultimately, the flow of students abroad is a product of globalisation. There is the entrenched idea that what is abroad is better than what is here. The idea of Western colleges, propagated by Hollywood and the global entertainment industry, is one of fun and partying with no conservative moral pressures holding the free-spirited youngsters back from exploring alternative lifestyles. Many, especially women who have studied abroad complain of narrow social codes they have to live by back home. The best way to stem the flow of students — and money — going abroad might be, therefore, a break from conservative values that shape our educational system and the society. Students need not flee abroad in search of freedom—with a little dare, that freedom can be ushered and enjoyed in our own milieu.