Samarth Arora recently graduated with a financial management degree from a leading Swedish university. Now back in India with an ‘envious’ resume and four years of work experience, Arora has cemented his position in a leading financial strategy firm in India. His recruitment, however, was not just based on his foreign degree but equally on his experience. “It cannot be denied that a foreign degree is helpful in getting a job in India but it cannot be taken for granted. Candidates still have to work through the ladder and compete in the market like others,” he says. Arora adds that even though companies think of foreign degree-holders, who have a tangible global experience, as a good investment, not every company would fall flat for a foreign degree.
However, a recent survey commissioned by London Universities International Partnership has reopened the debate on the perks of a foreign degree. The survey found 81 per cent of CEOs and human resource directors in nine Indian cities believe their company would benefit from recruiting Indian graduates who’ve studied at a London university, as they would have a global perspective. In a survey conducted among more than 3,000 Indian employers, international experience was found to be a key attribute that companies look for in prospective employees. Countering the claims of the research, Indian recruiters point out that candidates with foreign degrees cannot take jobs for granted.
Hamsaz Vasunia, head business-HR, Development Credit Bank, says, “In the recent past, we haven’t really considered hiring those with international degrees. About eight lakh students graduate annually from Indian b-schools and most organisations tap these students for their management trainee programmes,” she says. Vasunia adds that those with international degrees usually have high salary expectations as the investment made by them is fairly large. “Also, most of these students opt for an international degree as they are looking to migrate and thus coming back to India is usually not their first priority. Sometimes we find that those with an international degree come with a chip on their shoulder and may be willing to do only certain types of jobs. They are usually interested in profiles that involve analysis and strategy. These roles are usually far and few,” she says. Shyla Du Cosquer, international career consultant at Audencia Nantes School of Business, adds, “A master’s degree from one of the top 10 to 15 Indian business schools will be of much higher value than a foreign degree from an average international business school.”
Experience is key
Foreign degree-holders invest thrice as much as they do in Indian universities to get the same degrees. The idea is simple, to get a substantial return on investment (ROI). But ROI is not possible without a combination of experience and reliable credentials. Experts say such candidates believe ‘global perspective’ is the golden ticket. “Recruiters consider 70 per cent culture and 30 per cent technical skills. Global perspective is a vague term when it comes to real-life challenges in the company,” says Satya D Sinha, managing director, MANCER consulting services.
Another reason for foreign degree-holders to be considered at par with Indian degree-holders is the place of work. Ashok Reddy, MD, IIJT and co-founder, TeamLease Services, says, “It is not important at all unless one is looking to place a person in the country where h/she has studied. Where the benefit for either case becomes relevant is in the aspect of exposure and learning that comes from being out of the country and living by self.” For instance, a French company looking to develop business in India would be happy to hire a French degree-holding Indian as they have a better understanding of cultural elements that will help working with the head office in France.
Most large, private companies with an international outlook accept international degrees and, in some cases, even attach a premium to them. If this isn’t the case, a candidate should think twice about whether the company is really going to provide them with the kind of career they are looking for. Wing Lam, dean, GlobalNxt Universities, says, “There are fundamental management qualities such as analytical, problem-solving and people skills that typically form the basic selection criteria. However, in this modern age of global business, companies also value candidates with a global outlook, an entrepreneurial mindset, creative thinking skills and IT-savviness.” He adds that it is more about the candidate than the degree itself. “A candidate needs to bring a different mindset that will contribute to diversity within an organisation. Studies have shown that diversity in organisations can have an impact on the quality of decision-making, which is very important for organisations in a growth phase.”
Positive flip side
While a foreign degree may be an expensive affair with a dicey ROI, it has its perks. Apart from a deeper understanding of global markets, students also get to travel and choose from the best of subjects and opportunities available abroad. Devika Jeet, who graduated from Lady Sri Ram College for Women and then went on to pursue a master’s programme in International Journalism from Cardiff University, UK, says, “The degree opened a world of opportunities for me and made people take notice of me. It also gave me an edge and the confidence to achieve anything. A foreign degree helps change the way we look at things, and broadens our horizons. It certainly did for me.”
According to the latest report of Open Door, which documents international students studying in the US, 1,00,270 Indians study in the United States, making it the most preferred destination by our students. This is followed by UK, Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore and Malaysia. Hema Bajaj, associate professor, Great Lakes Institute of Management, explains, “Indian companies across sectors are looking like never before towards international markets. To understand the culture, ethos and technology it makes sense to employ human resource that understand customers and competition in the host market. In addition, problems related to adjustment in a foreign national culture are also avoided. Also, along with international exposure, companies hire for skillsets that are generally not available in India. This could be related to new technology and new products.”
Going abroad is definitely an eye-opening experience but choosing the right university and subject can be difficult. Options such as job opportunities, settlement and investment amount are paramount when making that decision. For instance, US is the best choice for engineering and technology as it generates the highest number of job opportunities in that field. Australia and the UK are good for commerce, vocational education and arts. Several European nations like Ireland and Sweden provide great opportunities for arts, life sciences, biotechnology and entrepreneurship. The last couple of years have witnessed a substantial boom in unconventional courses professions such as architecture and interior design. “Another avenue that is fast catching up with students is hospitality and hotel management, and the best colleges to offer these are in Australia, New Zealand and the UK if the student knows how to manage their budget,” says Natasha Chopra, director, The Chopras.