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UK-educated Indian graduates face barriers with Indian employers

UK-educated Indian graduates who return home to find a job are facing “ambivalence” from Indian employers, some of whom, according to a new report, did not recognise UK universities.

Many employers lacked awareness of UK universities and in some sectors, 63% were “not at all likely” to employ international degree holders. Photo: Sakeeb Sabakka/ flickr

63% were “not at all likely” to employ international degree holders

The findings were presented in Sannam S4‘s report ‘Studying abroad in 2019: An Employability Premium for Indian Graduates?’, an update to a 2014 survey that featured more than 600 graduates who had studied in 25 countries and some 75 employers in India.

“It is more important than ever for UK universities to ensure they are supporting their graduates”

It revealed that employers lacked awareness of UK universities and in some sectors, 63% were “not at all likely” to employ international degree holders.

While the report said the UK’s new post-study work rights represents a “great opportunity” to recruit Indian students, universities need to address issues with graduate employability.

“With the prospect of increased levels of engagement with India, it is more important than ever for UK universities to ensure they are supporting their graduates as effectively as possible,” said Zoe Marlow, Sannam S4’s head of client relations.

“This research gives a number of highly implementable recommendations to universities and their students which Sannam S4 will continue to champion.”

Sannam S4 presented its analysis on the employability of internationally-educated Indian graduates at roundtables in Leeds, Edinburgh and London earlier this month.

All of the surveyed graduates had completed their study overseas between 2013–18, and 51% had studied in the UK.

The majority of employers who responded were in human resources. Delhi-NCR and Bangalore were the most represented locations, and 58% of respondents worked in very small (fewer than 100 employees) companies or very large (more than 5,000) companies.

When asked “which of the following reasons might be behind not getting the advantage of your degree”, 27% of the UK educated graduates cited “lack of employer awareness and/or recognition of the university.”

During the London roundtable, Marlow argued that the reason for this specific issue might be down to the “size of the Indian landscape”.

“If you think about it, there are 900 universities, 40,000 colleges: it is probably difficult for an Indian employer even to map where an Indian institution fits in, and to visualise what kind of student or employee they might be getting from somewhere that’s in a different part of India,” Marlow explained.

“I think this really highlights the issue of trying to get someone to understand whether a student is at a research-led or teaching-led institution, what kind of person they are, what practical skills and knowledge they are going to bring to the job and how that is different or would be more useful to their business as it grows.”

Sannam S4’s research showed that 68% of employers surveyed thought that international graduates only returned to India after their studies because they couldn’t secure a job overseas.

Employers from different sectors had varying opinions about international degree holders. 39% of those hiring in the technology, media and telecom sector said they were “extremely likely” to employ international degree holders.

Conversely, 63% of those in the professional services sector said they were “not at all likely” to employ those who had studied abroad.

Marlow told The PIE that professional services firms are likely to have significant recruitment schemes in India, which recruit from campus in volume, and that this may explain why they did not favour international graduates.

Employers did, however, view internationally-educated graduates as particularly strong at problem-solving, networking and being adaptable when compared to their Indian- educated peers.

Likewise, graduates gave mixed responses to their experience of studying in the UK and how well it prepared them for future employment.

Of those students who graduated from a UK institution, 66% said their degree gave them an advantage over Indian counterparts.

However, when it came to satisfaction with salaries, the graduates were not as positive.

Almost half (49%) of UK educated Indian graduates said their salary in their first job back home did not meet their expectations. This figure improved to 35% once a graduate had been in work for two years.

Sannam S4 identified several measures that could be taken to improve the employability of Indian students educated abroad.

“It’s also about [students] not putting themselves in the best position”

Researchers found that most internationally educated graduates only started job hunting in the second half of their course and a quarter (24%) didn’t do anything about it before graduating.

“With the students, it’s about timing and skill development, but it’s also about them not putting themselves in the best position.

“When you combine that with the fact that employers have a reticence or an ambivalence or are actually negative, plus they don’t understand, it makes it difficult for those two groups to come together successfully,” Marlow added.

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