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Dr Rahul Choudaha, World Education Services, USA

Student mechanics have completely changed in the last five years. Have recruitment practices evolved to the same levels? Not necessarily. So that’s where the big gap is.
June 1 2012
5 Min Read

Dr Rahul Choudaha is an international higher education expert who heads up Research and Advisory Services at World Education Services in the USA. He also runs the influential blog, He recently talked Glocals, Generation Q and how to attract Indian students with The PIE.

The PIE: How did you become Dr. Education?

RC: I was a typical middle class Indian guy who was told to study engineering, then to do an MBA, then to work in IT and to not think. So that is what I did. The first year I was working I really hated my job and that’s when I realised I had to find what I liked. I had always been passionate about education so I moved into the sector. I worked in India for five years and then came to the US to do my PhD in higher education. I was just following what I really liked and was in the right place at the right time.

The PIE: What is a “glocal”?

RC: A student from the middle class in emerging markets who doesn’t have the buying capacity of the premier high network individuals, but has aspirations to get an international education. They end up staying within their region because they can’t afford to pay to go to other countries. But also because of the amount of up and coming opportunities in the region and because of the proximity to their families.

The PIE: How are education providers responding to them?

RC: The whole phenomenon of branch campuses is actually catering to them precisely. For example there are many Indian institutions in the Middle East which are primarily catering to Indian students. It gives the students study abroad experience but at the same time they’re not going to the US or the UK.

Also the pricing is more economical at these institutions, so people who want to be associated with that brand name but at the same time don’t have the academic preparedness to take that step in their own country can make use of them. Qualitatively they are not as good as the Indian home campus. It’s a balance. The student can say I got a degree from Manipal – not Manipal in India but in Dubai.

Globally they have the attractiveness to get students from any part of the world

The PIE: And this is happening with international institutions too.

Yes, you have the international institutions coming to students. Yale’s collaboration with National University of Singapore is a good example. Here it’s not just Singaporean or Asain students, but globally they have the attractiveness to get students from any part of the world. This is very different from the Indian universities which are competing on price and lower admission standards. This is competing on reputation and quality.

It caters more to those students who have the money or the academic preparedness to go to a top university anywhere in the world, but are staying in the region because now the quality has come to their doorstep. They have compromised a little bit on quality – they’re not getting the true Yale degree, but a Yale-like degree – but are still staying in the emerging region.

The PIE: What other successful internationalisation strategies are you seeing in Asia?

RC: Apart from the branch campuses we also see “twinning” booming at the moment. Here students are being offered to spend two years at the home campus with an Indian, Chinese or Malaysian partner, and the next two years they transfer with their credits to another department at a school in the UK or Australia. It offers gain at a cost advantage and at the same time students get a balanced international experience.

Malaysia and Singapore who are much smaller in scale but are taking more steps to attract talent

The PIE: Are new country players wielding more influence in the Asian market?

RC: China and India are big from the perspective of the sheer size and momentum they can bring. However as destinations, Malaysia and Singapore are much smaller in scale but are taking more proactive steps to attract talent within the region. Japan is shifting toward this very focused migration approach which they are using to attract skilled migrants. Already China is a source for Japan.

The PIE: What’s the appeal of Singapore and Malaysia for students?

RC: There is that qualitative difference with Singapore and Malaysia, not only with the policy perspective but also from institutional quality perspective. They work on building a reputation for quality which isn’t as high in other destinations. So for example talking about Indonesia and Vietnam – they are emerging markets but they do not have the capacity to claim to be quality study destinations. They will be senders of students; that is where the consumer class is coming from.

The PIE: What can we expect from the Indian market in the next five to ten years?

RC: One of the biggest changes I expect will be in student mobility. Right now the Indian market is mostly graduate students within engineering or computer science related fields. This is going to change because of the shift in demographics after liberalisation in India in the early nineties. There is this rich professional class that has emerged and their children are going to international schools.

They are going to graduate in a few years and will have a broader base so will study more unconventional subjects like arts, journalism or communication. They will have money so they will be able to afford going abroad for different kinds of programmes, and will start going at the undergraduate level as well. I see this happening from 2015. I call them Generation Q – a generation looking for quality who will be going for undergraduate programmes beyond engineering and computer science.

‘Generation Q’ Indians will study more unconventional subjects like arts, journalism or communication

The PIE: And you see change on the domestic front?

Yes, at a systemic level. There’s going to be more and more pressure to bring quality to Indian higher education. Currently the state of affairs is very, very disheartening. Quality is the last thing considered because of the archaic policy framework. Institutions themselves are not living up to those professional outcomes so they are compromising a lot of things by not delivering quality. Students are ultimately the victims in this process. In the next three to five years there will be more pressure on policy makers and institutions from students and families to make changes in the HE system, and that hopefully will bring more quality.

The PIE: What should the recruitment of Generation Q look like?

RC: The approaches to recruit students are still based on early 2000 traditional methods. Student mechanics have completely changed in the last five years. Have recruitment practices evolved to the same levels? Not necessarily. So that’s where the big gap is for Indian students. Or anywhere in general. The use of social media has picked up at a very fast pace – faster than the ability of institutions to adapt to their behaviour. A lot of time universities are ignoring what has changed, which puts them at a great disadvantage.


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