For many Indian students, the UK is one of the most appealing destinations for a business education. In 2019/20, 41,815 students came from India to the UK, up from 18,305 the year before, and 12,820 the year before that, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency. It is the second biggest of overseas students in the UK after China, which in 2019/20 sent over 100,0000 for the first time ever.
The majority of Indian students come to the UK for business education, most for a pre-experience master’s with work experience tagged on to the end. This combination is reckoned to give young Indians a career jump-start when they move back to their home country, as many do. Only 6 percent of Indians taking a business qualification in the UK take an MBA.
Why is the UK so popular for Indian students? One big reason, of course, is that the English language is widely spoken in India for historical reasons. For the same reasons, the Indian education system tends to mesh well with the UK’s, and Indian students are welcomed by UK academics.
INDIAN BUSINESS STUDENTS MORE FOCUSED ON TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE & SKILLS
Business school professors often say that South East Asian students can face something of a culture shock when they arrive in the UK and are expected to confidently express their opinions. Indian students tend to be used to that, and for that reason can be a dream addition to a class, especially at the beginning of a course.
However, Indian students don’t always get as much out of their education as they could. “Indian students are normally strong in STEM related knowledge. Therefore, normally they are too focused on the technical knowledge and skills rather than focusing on other soft or professional skills,” says Amir Michael, full-time MBA program director at Durham University Business School. “But this is really essential, as part of their learning experience.” Also, adds Michael, Indian students “usually focus on their merits and may miss having some clear view about their potential.”
Also, while Indian students are hard workers and focused on achieving their goals, “in some cases they shy away from socially engaging with other students from different backgrounds, in which they miss the social aspect of the learning and teaching process,” says Michael. “These are areas that I believe Indian students will benefit from joining the UK education system. These are key aspects of the wider student experience and the social and interpersonal development opportunities that the UK education system can offer them.”
VISA POLICY ALLOWS INDIANS TO STAY IN THE UK FOR TWO YEARS AFTER GRADUATION
Another reason that the UK is a preferred destination for Indian students is that its visa regime is welcoming. All students are now able to stay in the country for two years following graduation, giving them plenty of time to find a job, and accrue a decent amount of experience.
This rule, which recently came into force, is probably responsible for the rapid increase in applications from India. “Demand for MBAs in the Indian market is currently very strong, if not the strongest I have seen in my 15 years in business education,” says Chris Healy, head of MBA marketing & recruitment at Alliance Manchester Business School. “That makes it increasingly competitive to secure a place on top MBA programmes that are already competitive by their nature.”
Healy’s advice is to think about timing. “Just because you meet the minimum entry requirements of three years of professional experience does that mean that ‘now’ is the time for you to do an MBA? I think it’s a common mistake that many candidates make in thinking they need an MBA ‘right now’ when arguably they would benefit from gaining a couple more years of professional experience.”
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND IF YOU’RE APPLYING TO A UK SCHOOL
At Poets&Quants, we sometimes hear stories of people who find that a UK business qualification is not the golden ticket to prosperity that they expected. When entire families pool their savings to send someone to a UK university, it is extremely important that they get it right. So here is our guide for Indian students choosing a UK business school.
ONE: Study the rankings. It might seem obvious in an industry so obsessed with ranking lists, and they are not the be-all-and-end-all, but if a business school appears in multiple ranking lists over several years, then you can probably conclude that it is solid.
However, rankings should be approached with caution “Ranking lists are very volatile and differ in terms of methodology and focus,” says Durham’s Amir Michael. “None of the top schools can capture all ranking elements, but they have some strengths aligned with their strategic vision. It is very dangerous to look just at the overall ranking, rather than running some more detailed analysis to gain insight of the key ranking elements that you are interested in and their weightings. It will be useful to pick the school that scores high on areas that are of interest to your ambitious and future plan.”
‘RANKINGS ARE A GREAT SOURCE TO BEGIN YOUR RESEARCH’
If gender parity, the internationalism of the faculty or the number of teachers with PhDs matters to you, then you can gather that information. At least, you can for MBAs. Rankings of master’s tend to be less detailed, but can contain useful information, such as the percentage of students who receive internships.
That said, there is something to be said for brand. The content of programs at business schools is generally pretty similar. The alumni network and the glow of being a graduate of a big-name school arguably make all the difference. Evaluating the trade-off between cost and brand is one of the big decision prospective students have to make.
However, looking at ranking lists is necessarily superficial. “Rankings are a great source to begin your research and to identify a list of schools to consider. Important to remember however this is the first stage of your research and not the most important. I’m a big believer in engaging with schools, whether that be speaking to Admissions staff or students or alumni,” says Manchester’s Chris Healy.
ACCREDITATION CAN BE IMPORTANT AT LESS-KNOWN SCHOOLS
TWO: Check schools’ accreditations. If big-name school are out of your price-range, then care is required. The UK is full of small, relatively new schools which have been set up to capitalise on the boom in overseas students, and often trade on the reputations of established universities. For example, schools using the names of Oxford or Cambridge in their titles might not have anything to do with the ancient universities in those cities – but they hope that a halo effect will attract students. A better way to judge quality is accreditation. There are three main business school accreditation bodies, AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA. Just over 100 schools worldwide are “triple-accredited.”
All the accreditation agencies focus on different things. EQUIS is big on internationalism, for instance – but in short, the more accreditation a school has, the better it is. If a school is only accredited by one of two of the big bodies, then it is worth finding out what that means, and how that would impact your experience there. Another aspect of accreditation is which ones you, as a student, will be able to gain.
“If you come to do a postgraduate degree in finance, accounting or marketing, there may well be accreditation for you into a particular profession, such as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the Chartered Management Institute and so on,” says Robert MacIntosh, professor of strategic management at Edinburgh Business School and chair of the Chartered Association of Business Schools. Needless to say, having letters after your name can open doors.
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