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Recruiting Intelligence

Which Indian Students Will Be Drawn to Your Programs?

India is the second largest source of international students coming to the U.S. Many factors are contributing to this flow of students and current projections suggest future growth in the number of Indian students studying in the U.S. and other countries. In looking at the Indian market you will find a very diverse student population and complex market than many outside observers assume. When we here at Intead evaluate the Indian market, we consider the many "micro-markets" within the country that are more likely to be effective for international student recruitment. 

To learn more about these Indian micro-markets, we are taking a look at an interesting study prepared by SanamS4, a company specializing in the entry strategies for higher education institutions (and other companies) into the Indian market. We attended a great presentation where Lakshmi Iyer explained her research at the AIEA conference in Washington, D.C., in February 2014. 

SanamS4 surveyed a significant sample of professional student counselors and agents to get an understanding of the interests of students and their parents. In the process, they reviewed regional differences in India as these students review their options for international study. The reported data allows marketers to segment the Indian market and create a more targeted marketing communications plan. We will highlight three charts from the research and you can download the entire presentation here (registration required). 

Chart 1 


The survey contains several important insights on the regional differences within India in terms of student program preferences and priorities.  Experienced admissions officers know that business and engineering dominates as fields of interest in India (as in many countries). Yet there are measureable differences between the regions in terms of undergraduate and graduate interest and in terms of subject choice. Chart 1 shows that the South (including Bengalore) is focused on engineering more strongly than the rest of the country. Meanwhile the East shows greater interest in arts and information technology than any other area. You will also notice that smaller specialty fields resonate more strongly in the North, West and South than in the Eastern region of the country.
Chart 2 and 3 focus on the factors and priorities for choosing a particular country destination (Chart 2) and the general student motivational factors (Chart 3) for studying abroad. 
Indian students are practical, return-on-investment (ROI) focused students. They evaluate what their education will get them in the employment market. This is an evaluation that American students and their parents are taking more seriously as well in recent years. These kinds of evaluations are putting pressure on academia to show labor market validation for the education/degree they provide.
The Indian audience is very focused on these outcome factors. Note that in chart 2, four of the five country selection priorities relate to employment and finances. This may not be so surprising when we consider that many Indian (and other international) students and families borrow funds frequently at double digit interest rates to finance the overseas education. U.S. student loans may look like a bargain to Indian families. Yet the strong favorable attitude towards education as a step to professional mobility and future success leads them to pool family resources and take on loans.
Chart 3 shows that the Indian view of education is that it is a means to an end and there is little room for the sense of education simply for the sake of education. Liberal Arts degrees may not resonate well in these micro-segments.
Academic institutions are well served to consider what they have available to address such Indian students' focus on career options beyond the enticement of scholarships. Student employment can be an excellent bridge, future internship and co-op opportunities as well as strong career service and alumni activities can be a point of attraction for Indian students and parents. 
In next week's Intead INSIGHTS, we will look at the Chinese micro-market evaluation.
Chart 2
Chart 3