Nepal as an emerging source market

Nepal is emerging as one of the most important source markets in South Asia. With a growing number of young people and increased urbanisation, Nepalese students are looking overseas for quality education opportunities. These are our thoughts on Nepal, where its students are choosing to study, and what the future looks like for this market.

Where are students studying?

Nearly two-thirds of Nepalese students studying overseas choose to study in the US and Australia. Nepal is the second-largest student source market from South and Central Asia for the US, second only to India, according to the 2018 Open Doors data from the Institute of International Education (IIE). There were 14% more Nepalese students in the US in 2018 than the year prior with a total enrolment of 13,270 students.

In Australia, Nepalese enrolments grew by 60% between 2016 and 2017 along with more than 23,000 students studying in Australian institutions. This number is forecast to reach 33,200 by 2020 and 41,800 by 2025; a 6.8% year annual growth rate.

Why are Nepalese students choosing to study overseas?

While it’s difficult for the Nepalese government to accurately assess the number of students studying outside Nepal, Open Doors Data suggests that the total number of Nepalese students currently studying abroad is edging close to 60,000 – a number which has doubled in the past five years.

The exodus of students can be partly tied to Nepal’s education system not being able to create “a convincing link” between educational degrees and jobs, with one editorial in the Kathmandu Post suggesting that the curriculum of many Nepalese universities is knowledge-driven rather than industry-driven. This means that many students find the transition from study to the workplace to be challenging, as they don’t always have the skills needed to operate in their chosen field.

What are Nepalese students looking for?

In 2017, Nepal didn’t have a single private university, whereas its nearest neighbour, India, had over 770. For Nepalese students wanting to study at institutions that have an established history and place a strong focus on research and innovation, they are looking to countries like the US, India and Australia to provide them with such skills.

An article from ICEF Monitor states that Nepal has ambitious plans to further accelerate its economic growth and become a middle-income country by 2030. To achieve this, the government is targeting a 10% increase in the investment rate by 2021. Such reforms are anticipated to improve the competitiveness of the private sector and better integrate with global markets, as well as strengthening the country’s financial sector and its infrastructure. While these reforms are going to be great for the country and its students in the long term, it is hoped that many students who choose to study overseas will in the short term be able to harness the skills they’ve learned in foreign universities, and bring these home to improve their country’s technical and economic development.

Nepal’s growth as an international education source country has been remarkable, with more and more students choosing to study overseas. While this growth has been a big win for the international education community, it is also set to benefit Nepal itself, with many students choosing to return home and bring the skills they’ve learned to contribute towards growing Nepal’s economy.

Author: Guy St Clair

Guy St Clair is New Zealand General Manager at Cohort Go where he is responsible for driving and supporting the company’s growth across New Zealand’s international education market.