Top states for foreign students in India - Roughly 300,000 students studying abroad make India one of the largest sources of foreign students in the international educational sector. While the country is hot on the heels of China- the largest source of foreign student - it is creating its own space as an international study destination. According to a Deloitte report on the status of higher education in the country, India has over 30,000 foreign students - an increase of over 18,000 since 1990.

Syerikjan, a Mongolian student, is one among the many international students who flock to India every year to explore higher education opportunities. “I came to India just to study. But after spending a few years here now, I feel like I am more Indian than Mongolian,” he says. Currently studying at the Delhi School of Economics, Syerikjan says while he took time to adjust in the ‘unpredictable’ environment of India, he slowly started to “warm up to it as he found friends with similar passions and backgrounds.” “It definitely becomes much better after you find like-minded friends. In fact, I can even speak Hindi now!” he says.


While still at a nascent stage, India is slowly cementing its place as an emerging study destination for the international student community, attracting a majority of international students from the SAARC countries, which include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka, besides some students from African countries.


However, India still lags behind in comparison to countries which have stabilized themselves in the international higher education destination. This is reflected by the fact that out of 4.5 million international students, only about 0.6% head toward India.


“I think what we need in India is a proper policy in place. We need to be more pro- active towards our approach in attracting foreign students to our shore,” says Raja Sood, Director of Marketing and Australia Client Relations at IDP Education.


Sanjeev Bolia, founder and Managing Director of Afairs, an education fair organiser, feels that the problem also lies with the lack of promotion by Indian universities. “India has not really tapped the vast opportunities available in a global platform. We have many quality and less expensive institutions here. All we need to do is to show them off to the world.”


However, all’s not lost in India’s higher education scene. Slowly, the country is picking up the pace with a number of international students heading to its shore with states like Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu taking the lead.


Here, we bring you a list of top states attracting foreign students in India:




With over 12,000 international students, Karnataka leads the pack of states which attract the most number of international students in India. Karnataka’s popularity among foreign students is reflected in the ever growing numbers of students from Gulf and African countries who flock to the state mainly to pursue Medicine and Engineering. In fact, Karnataka records the highest enrollments in medicine among foreign students in the country; majority of whom are from Malaysia.


The driving force behind Karnataka’s rise to the most sought after destination among foreign students are Bangalore and Manipal cities. According to an Association of Indian Universities report on internationalization of higher education in India, Manipal University has one of the highest numbers of foreign students in India. “Manipal has witnessed an increase in the number of international students in the last couple of years,” says Diana Britto of Manipal University. “While we do have students across many nationalities, students from Malaysia, USA and UAE constitute the largest chunk in the university.”


Besides Bangalore and Manipal, Mysore is another city which has seen a spurt in the number of international students. With the numbers going above 1,000, the city gets students from 52 countries worldwide.


Top institutes: Manipal University, Bangalore University, Visvesvaraya Technological University, Mysore University

Top courses: MBBS, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Bachelor of Engineering, Bachelor of Pharmacy and Bachelor of Computer Applications


Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu has attracted quite a lot of attention from the international student community in the last few years, thanks to its focus on quality institutions. While the state is also famous for its medicine courses, it draws the highest number of international students to its commerce and science courses. With nearly 5,000 students, Tamil Nadu is the only state with the second highest number of international students after Karnataka.


A majority of foreign students head towards Tamil Nadu to increase their English proficiency as many institutes in the state also provide English proficiency classes for students from non-native English countries for at least 6 months toward the beginning of their sessions.


Top institutes: Annamalai University, Bharathiar University, VIT University, Alagappa University

Top courses: Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Engineering, Bachelor of Dental Surgery



When India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, called Pune the ‘Oxford of the East’, little did he know that the city would not only be popular among Indian students but would also attract students from across the world. While Maharashtra with over 4,000 foreign students ranks third among the states with the highest number of international students, Pune has proved itself to be the education hub, attracting the largest number of international students. One of the areas where Pune stands out among the other Indian states is that the city is home to a number of quality academic and research institutes thus making it a student-friendly city. Interestingly, many students also opt for Pune because of pleasant weather and liberal accommodation.


Mumbai is another city which is making its mark among foreign students, though it is still a far cry compared to Pune with a little over 200 students enrolled only in Mumbai University. While the city does provide safe surroundings for foreign students, it loses out on high accommodation and living costs.


Top institutes: University of Mumbai, University of Pune, Symbiosis International University, Bharati Vidyapeeth University

Top courses: Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Pharmacy, Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Commerce


Andhra Pradesh and Telangana


Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are two other states which are emerging as education destination for foreign students. With over 3,500 foreign students studying in various universities, Andhra Pradesh, before the division, was not only the state which was sending the highest number of students abroad but was also attracting a large number of foreign students. Surprisingly, one of the top drawers is Osmania University- now in Telangana-which continues to enroll the largest number of foreign students in the state.


Andhra Pradesh has also taken special care to ensure that foreign students keep coming there. For example, Andhra University has a state-of-the-art students hostel dedicated exclusively for international students.


Top institutes: Osmania University,Andhra University, Kakatiya University

Top courses: Bachelor of Technology, Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Computer Applications




India’s national capital New Delhi continues to be at the centre of international students. Among the institutions, Delhi University with over 2,000 enrolments alone is most popular among foreign students. In fact, the university also holds the record of admitting the highest number of foreign students in India. “Presently students from more than 70 countries are studying here in Delhi University,” says Dr. Amrit Kaur Basra, foreign students’ advisor at Delhi University.


Subjects like Science, Economics, English, History, Mathematics and Geography are very popular among foreign students in Delhi. Students, mainly from the SAARC countries, also opt for professional courses. As Dr. Basra puts it : “There is a huge demand for professional courses like B.ED.Arts and Nursing at doctoral level. These courses witness a fierce competition among foreign students every year as seats are few and demand is high.”


Another university which has cemented Delhi’s position as an international student city is the South Asian University (SAU). SAU is an international university founded by the eight member states of SAARC. In its seventh batch this year, SAU has been witnessing a sharp increase in applications from students across the SAARC countries since its establishment in 2010.


Top institutes: Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, South Asian University

Top courses: Undergraduation in Economics, English, History



Top states


Foreign students


12, 058

Tamil Nadu




Andhra Pradesh and Telangana








Top courses and countries


Number of foreign students

Country with highest students

Bachelor of Technology 



Bachelor of Commerce  






Bachelor of Pharmacy  



Bachelor of Science  



Bachelor of Arts 



Bachelor of Computer Applications  



Bachelor of Engineering



Bachelor of Science in Nursing 



Bachelor of Business Administration 



Source- MHRD

Photo courtesy- University of Virginia


Also Read:

Study abroad trends in India: Rise in outbound students

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