Declining value of foreign MBAs

Despite India boasting over a thousand B-schools, some of whom are rated and ranked among the best in the world, most graduates who aspire to corporate careers yearn to do an MBA abroad, especially in the US, UK or Australia. Well aware of this national aspiration, many foreign B-schools have established offices in India and stage pricey promotional programmes in five-star hotels to ‘sensitise’ youth about the great globally cherished MBAs they offer.



But one has to understand the dynamics of why offshore B-schools aggressively recruit students from India and third world countries. A prime cause of the shift of the centre of gravity to emerging markets is that the pool of students who want to get graduate education in the West is low and falling dramatically. With their enrolment rates in the doldrums, foreign B-schools are wooing Indian and third world students assiduously. Yet, it’s becoming increasingly clear that a foreign B-school diploma doesn’t guarantee quality education or plum jobs anymore. How many with foreign certification attain these objectives doesn’t provide a very comfortable answer. The plain truth is that good MBA education, even in the US, UK and Australia is restricted to 30-odd excellent instit-utions, and the diplomas and certificates of other B-schools don’t open doors abroad or in India. Overlay this with other factors such as expensive education, poor living standards while studying, difficulties in securing appropriate work visas/cards, and one can understand that the charm of working abroad is fading and most students educated in foreign B-schools are coming back to India where job prospects are better.



With the recent global economic downturn hitting Western economies harder, there is more glaze and glitter than real gold in foreign MBAs. Nevertheless assuming that your heart is set upon a foreign qualification and you have the wherewithal to fund the aspiration, choosing an appropriate B-school isn’t rocket science. Check out the QS and Times Higher Education rankings of the best B-schools in the country of your choice.



In particular, you may want to verify the following points: Is the B-school you’ve chosen suffering from lack of local demand? Is its certification well recognised? Who are its prominent alumni? What is the school’s placement record? What are the fees and other hidden costs? Some answers to these questions will be easily available; some won’t. For answers to difficult questions, search out alumni of short-listed schools. In the connected world of Orkut and Facebook, seeking out alumni shouldn’t be a big problem.



Moreover, there are always B-school forums that will happily help you. But in all likelihood you’ll find that after your investigations you will have shortlisted the top 30 B-schools in the US, top five in the UK and Australia, and a few others in Europe and Singapore. But beware, admission into these top-rung schools is difficult and expensive.
Will the scenario be markedly different if foreign B-schools establish branch campuses in India if the proposed Foreign Education Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, 2010 is enacted into law? This is a timely, relevant question. I believe it will be, for the very talented and the rich — a minuscule minority in India. Foreign institutions entering India will be of two types: those that are serious about education and others who have been waiting for opportunities to cash in on the pent-up demand. The former will be few, the latter many; but both will be expensive propositions.



Against this backdrop, for the vast majority of students it makes eminent sense to explore the Indian B-school option. Admittedly, Indian MBA diplomas with the exception of certification from the top two-three IIMs, are not recognised by Western firms. But this is true of all public and private B-schools in India. It’s useful to remember that an MBA from the top 30 B-schools of India is better than of also-ran institutes that woo you from abroad. Gaining qualifications from B-schools in both these groups is unlikely to result in the red carpet being rolled out for you by corporates. On the other hand, graduates of top and even middling indigenous B-schools can land well-paying jobs, closer to home and friends in culturally comfortable environments. Several exchange students from Europe and US in India will vouch for the quality and rigour of a premier B-school education in our country.



As the Indian economy chalks up high annual rates of GDP growth, job opportunities are opening up for graduates who have received business education related to indigenous ground conditions. Therefore in a reversal of the brain drain, today students, even from the IITs, who are in demand the world over, are spurning six-figure salaries and returning to India, as are a growing number of MBAs from the best foreign B-schools.



Most of us owe our education to the taxes paid by millions of Indians. Should we not repay to our own people their investment? That’s the crucial question which a growing number of MBAs are answering in the affirmative.


(Jayaram K. Iyer is chairperson, corporate communications and director, marketing, Loyola Institute of Business Administration, Chennai)