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Focus on employability, not just academics in choosing foreign varsity: (Comment)



Time was when, if you aspired to study abroad, you wouldn't look beyond the US and the United Kingdom with their prestigious colleges and great institutions of higher learning, many of them with an Ivy League tag. They still exist, but a plethora of restrictions of late on internships, on-job training, work permits and the uncertainty around H-1B visas have led students and parents to cast the net wider.

Countries like Canada, Australia, Singapore and, of late, Dubai have emerged as hot favourites due to the growing number of opportunities to study, find remunerative work and options to settle down.

But before you jump to a country of choice, you need to answer questions like: What is it that really interests you? What would you like to achieve? What do you enjoy doing? These are not inane questions but important pointers to your future career. With the jobs as we know them to be today set to change vastly or disappear in the next 5-10 years due to tectonic technological changes, students looking for a satisfying and successful career will have to seriously ponder the road ahead.

Here are a few parameters for you to consider when comparing Universities:

* Compare the QS rankings of the short-listed colleges. The reputed British agency, QS, compares top universities globally on parameters like research, teaching, employability and internationalisation -- and the institute's stature.

* Consider the academic excellence and research facilities, but also check out the innovation, entrepreneurship and employability focus of the University.

Remember, employability means not just employment and getting a job, but equipping you with the skills, the knowledge and tools to be able to succeed in your career.

Of all these parameters, check out specifically the focus the university places on employability of students, making sure to find out if they have a well-researched and thought through Professional Development Program (PDP) tailored for international students to enhance their career success.

* It is normal and expected of students not to know what they want to do. Check out if the PDP for an international student like you will give systematic opportunities to experience, say, an Australian, Singaporean or a Canadian workplace culture, facilitate internships, the recruitment process and prepare you for a global career -- through interactive sessions. Also check out how the programme will equip you with inputs so that you as an international student "stand out".

* Do enquire what options are available for international students for networking and sharpening the communication skills to boost your employability, besides helping you with effective resumes, interviewing tips and mock interviews.

* What career advice can you expect to maximise employment outcomes? Does the University's placement division organise career fairs and seminars? If yes, how often are recruiters invited to the campus? Do the invitees to the career workshops include international alumni who have made a success of their careers? Where does the university rank on employer reputation on QS?

* One of the important parameters to consider would be the state of the health of the economy. Many of you would be surprised to learn that Australia has been recession-free for the past 26 years while the strong economies of Singapore and Canada have experienced a blip or two during this period. Australia's economic success often goes unnoticed because it is not promoted as much as the UK and the US.

* Compare starting salaries for graduates or post-graduates, especially from your area of study across Universities and the cost of living of shortlisted countries. Some countries prescribe minimum wages based on qualifications and industry and you would do well to compare them.

* While most popular courses to pursue abroad among Indian students are Business, Information Technology, Engineering, Science and Architecture, you would do well to check how the programme of your choice ranks in the preferred University.

* Look for institutions where scholarship awards are offered to only a few students based on merit-based scores that are usually above the minimum cut-off prescribed for admissions. Best to avoid institutions that offer scholarships as a bait to every foreign student more as a price-off than on merit.

* Another point for Indian students to consider is how easy is to transfer to the system. How compatible and similar is it to Indian 10+2+3 structure? Since universities in the US insist on a 10+2+4, only those following an under-graduate engineering and architecture programme of four years or more can go in for higher

* Your safety and congenial weather conditions are equally important considerations when going abroad to study. I would recommend a safe and student-friendly place like Sydney any time over an extreme weather location in America and Canada where the weather, for majority of the year, can be harsh and below freezing point.

(Sanjiv Kataria, who served as brand custodian for NIIT for nearly two decades, is a communications counsel. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at <>)



(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Thu, May 03 2018. 11:10 IST