India - Country Commercial Guide
Education Services

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2021-01-15

Capital:  New Delhi

Population:  1.38 Billion

GDP:  10.51 Trillion USD (2019 est., Purchasing Power Parity)

Currency:  Indian rupees (INR)

Language:  English

UNESCO Student Mobility Number:

India has 375,055 students studying abroad according to UNESCO.

CIA World Factbook:

43.82% of the population in India is under 24 years of age. 


The emphasis on higher education in India has never been as relevant as it is today, and this industry has grown significantly in the last two decades.  India has one of the largest systems of higher education in the world, following only China and the United States. 

Per the University Grants Commission (UGC) statistics of 2020, there are 935 universities in the country, including 409 state universities, 127 deemed-to-be universities (a status of autonomy granted to high performing institutes and universities by the Department of Higher Education),  50 central universities (established by the Department of Higher Education), and 349 private universities.  India has 95 Institutes of National Importance, a status that is conferred on a premier public higher education institution in India. Institutes of National Importance receive special recognition and funding from the government of India.  In addition, the Institutes of Eminence (IOE) guidelines were launched to empower higher education institutions and assist them in becoming world class teaching and research institutions.  Twenty institutions (10 private and 10 public) are now a part of the exclusive group of IOEs.  Together they offer a wide range of degree and diploma programs.

The UGC is the regulator providing grants, coordination, and standards for institutions of higher education in India.  The higher education sector in India can broadly be divided into two segments - regulated and unregulated.  The regulated segment includes central, state, and private universities, private/professional colleges, and technical and research institutions.  The unregulated segment includes online education, vocational training, finishing schools, professional development, and training and coaching classes.

India’s higher education system is the world’s third largest in terms of student enrolment, following only China and the United States.  The market, however, is experiencing a huge gap between demand and supply.  The demand for skills is being driven by the large number of private players, explosive growth of the IT sector, increasing FDI, and other disruptive innovations.  Online education, expansion of current institutions, and the establishment of new schools are examples of the rapid growth in this sector.

The GOI recently announced its National Education Policy 2020 (NEP), replacing the three-decade old National Education Policy of 1986.  The new NEP is India’s vision statement for transforming the education sector in India.  Though policy drafting and implementation will take time, the NEP statement provides insight into India’s priorities.  For example, India plans a major shift that will allow foreign universities (those with a top 100 worldwide ranking) to confer degrees and establish campuses in India.  Also, students will now be allowed the option of completing their bachelor’s degree in four years (currently it is three years) and can use part of the additional year for research work.  This means U.S. schools could see Indian students better prepared for the rigors of their graduate and post-graduate programs.  Prime Minister Modi’s recent statements about developing a curriculum that creates global citizens and giving greater autonomy to high-performing Indian education institutions bodes well for greater collaboration between U.S. and Indian schools.


As per the annual Open Doors Report for the 2019-20 academic year, 193,124 Indian students (graduate, undergraduate, and Optional Practical Training) were studying in the United States.  India is the second-highest source of students coming to the United States.  Students from India make up approximately 18 percent of the total foreign student population in the United States.  Of the Indian student population in the U.S., 44.1 percent are graduate students, 13 percent are undergraduate students, 0.9 percent select other programs, and 42 percent are classified as pursuing OPT (Optional Practical Training).  In 2019-20, the number of Indian students in the U.S. dropped by 4.4 percent.  

Graduate: India is a strong market for U.S. graduate institutions, with Indian students accounting for the second-highest number of foreign graduate students.  

Undergraduate: Though there is growing interest in undergraduate studies in United States, limited scholarships and the increasing cost of education are major deterrents.  However, with the increase in international schools in India, the interest in undergraduate study in the United States is slowly increasing.  In 2019-20, India contributed the second highest number of undergraduate international students to the U.S.

Community Colleges: Community colleges, especially those with transfer programs with reputed U.S. universities, have generated interest among Indian students in recent years.  The market is still at a nascent stage and will require more awareness among Indian students.

Secondary Education: At present, the Indian market for U.S. secondary education is underdeveloped.  Cultural reasons along with bourgeoning numbers of international schools in India are likely factors in the lack of demand.


There are several possible opportunities for collaboration between U.S. universities and Indian educational institutions, including:  

Twinning Programs:  In a twinning arrangement, students begin their studies in India and finish with a partner institution overseas.  The National Education Policy, which will loosen restrictions for foreign higher education institutions in India, is still in draft mode.  If passed, this will be a great opportunity, as many U.S. schools have shown interest in twinning programs with Indian schools. 

Student Exchange Programs:  Student exchange programs enhance cross cultural exposure and provide a global perspective to students.  Exchange students attend courses at overseas universities for a short time, ranging from two weeks to a full term/semester.  Indian schools are receptive to working with U.S. institutions for student exchange programs.

Faculty Exchange Programs:  Faculty exchange programs allow faculty to teach or conduct research for short periods at an overseas partner university or college.  Faculty staff are exposed to varied cultures, while receiving an opportunity to exchange ideas and observe a variety of teaching styles in a different setting.

Joint Research Programs:  The purpose of these programs is to advance collaborative research between foreign and Indian universities, while providing opportunities for young researchers to hone their skills.  There is currently limited collaboration between universities and industry in India.  Indian institutions would like to engage with industry in the development of science parks, incubation centers, and technology transfer units.  For this reason, Indian universities are interested in working internationally on systemic support and institutional models.

Representatives and Recruiters:  Several U.S. institutions have appointed representatives in India to conduct promotional and student recruitment activities.  The U.S. Commercial Service assists U.S. schools in finding the right in-country partner. 

Online Programs:  According to a recent report, the online education market in India was valued at USD $520 million in 2018 and is expected to reach over USD $4 billion by 2024.  The Covid-19 situation will accelerate this trend as Indian schools, like the rest of the world, are now moving to online classes.

Professional Training Services:  The Indian Professional Training services market includes executive education providers and skilling and training companies, as well as Indian schools offering courses to mid-career professionals.  The professional training market has witnessed robust growth in recent years due to high economic growth, a dominant service sector that contributes more than 50 percent of the GDP, and the entry of many new foreign companies into the Indian market.  U.S. firms and schools providing professional training services have great potential for establishing strategic alliances with partners in India.

Service Providers:  Non-Indian universities can enter into partnerships with Indian education institutions to provide expertise and services such as teaching staff, curriculum development, affiliations, and school administration.


India is one of the largest and fastest-growing markets for digital consumers, with over 700 million Internet subscribers.  The Indian government’s Digital India initiative aims to improve digital infrastructure and Internet connectivity.  This and other major government initiatives will provide a huge impetus to the digital growth and open opportunities for U.S. companies and schools in India.  Most U.S. schools use Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) like Coursera, Edx, and Udemy to offer certificate courses online to Indian students.  Foreign schools and local international schools have been using social media sites like Facebook, which has over 290 million users in India alone, to promote and advertise various programs.  Other social media sites that foreign schools use include Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.   

Though one cannot deny the popularity of digital media, most foreign schools use agents/private counselors to promote their programs and recruit students in India.  The agents/private counselors also use social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, etc. to reach out to their student contacts. 

It is important for U.S. study state consortia and/or education institutions to take into consideration the 2% equalization levy, which is now imposed on foreign institutions rendering online services with a turnover in excess of approximately USD $263,549. The equalization levy is applicable to both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions.


Virtual Education Fairs India: contact Noella Monteiro at



Noella Monteiro, Commercial Specialist

U.S. Commercial Service – India


Phone: +91-22-26724000