Is Studying Abroad worth it? Arguments and Statistics

Studying abroad has always been a matter of huge investment. But, given the cut-throat competition to get into the top and elite Indian institutes and the questionable level of education at the Tier-2 and Tier-3 colleges in India, studying abroad has become a very popular option. In the past few years, many ambitious young Indians, even from humble backgrounds have been opting for a foreign degree. However, increasing studying costs, increasing complexities of immigration rules in some of the popular study-abroad destinations, and employment problems for foreign graduates in India are raising a critical question – is an international education worth it? Let’s dig in deeper.


Is Studying Abroad Worth it or Not?


Co-authored by Tanmoy Ray



Tightening of Post-Study Work Visa and Immigration Rules


2018 has been a tough year for many Indian students who were either studying or working abroad. Several Indians who had gone to foreign countries such as the US and UK are having to return as immigration rules are becoming tougher for working and living abroad. According to a recent report, there has been a 30% – 40% drop in Indian students going to the US & UK for higher studies.


The major reason being cited is that it is now very difficult to find a job in these countries after graduation due to visa restrictions and an overall shortage of jobs. Considering the high cost of foreign education, many students now feel that the return on their investment will not be enough due to this tough job market.


Some students are applying to universities in countries like Canada and Australia, which makes it easier for them to find a job after their studies are over. However, the economies of these countries are not growing fast enough to generate enough jobs for all immigrants.


Germany is another option that’s getting very popular among Indian students. Other EU destinations like France, Switzerland, Sweden, Italy, Ireland, and the Netherlands are also getting popular. But, European countries do have a language barrier. Not everyone, especially the older students, might be willing to learn a new foreign language.


So, as you can see, it’s not easy anywhere.


Read Post-Study Work Visa & Jobs for International Students: Grass is Not Greener Anywhere.


All countries have their own priorities. The foreign countries offer jobs to foreign students who have done their master’s degrees in specialized areas like data analytics, medicine, renewable energy or bioinformatics, where there is a shortage of local talent.


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Foreign students who pursue an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in general areas like business, media or liberal arts do not have many job options available to them. Coming back to India with a foreign degree is definitely a viable option. India, being the fastest-growing large economy in the world, would seem to offer the best job opportunities for young graduates and experienced professionals. However, it’s not at all easy for fresh graduates with a foreign degree.


Foreign Graduates Face Problems While Looking for Jobs 


Yes, US-returned or UK-educated Indian graduates do face barriers with Indian employers.


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.


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.


The first problem, in employment, comes in networking with Indian recruiters. Indian employers are usually quite unaware of foreign universities.


Many SMEs, startups, and even larger companies have no means to understand the international quality of higher education. They are not so aware of the kind of curriculum and the grades, and skills, obtained by students when compared to easy-to-scale degrees from well-known institutes in India.


Then there is the brand issue. A lot of Canadian, European and Australian universities are not as famously popular, by name, as many of the American universities (e.g. Ivy League) and a few British universities (Cambridge & Oxford) are.


Another problem faced by foreign graduates is the absence of Indian employers for campus placements at foreign universities. In fact, there is no concept of “campus placements” abroad. Career cells (or University Careers Services Team) often don’t reach out to companies based in India.  Naturally, this takes away a chunk of the recruitment opportunities that these companies usually rely on for entry-level jobs.


So, is an international degree worth it?


Value of an International Degree


When it comes to higher education, there’s no doubt that international education is a big attraction for Indian students. Compared to the quality of education available at most Indian universities, a degree from a university abroad is considered superior. For those Indian students who wish to improve their chances in life and fulfill their dreams and aspirations, international education is a big draw. Read the top advantages of studying abroad.


By ‘international education’, we mean education in colleges and universities in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Singapore, and New Zealand. There are others, of course; but these countries attract the majority of students from India. European countries do feature in a wider list but, since studying in a European country usually means learning that country’s language, Europe falls short in popularity among aspiring Indian students seeking an international education.


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Students value quality education


Indian students who are pursuing, or in the past have pursued, degrees from international universities say that the education they are receiving, or have received, vastly outperforms Indian university education.


The course curriculum structures, teaching methodologies and research opportunities available in universities abroad are far superior to the Indian ones. So, if you’re thinking of studying abroad, you’ll be one of a growing number of Indian students who value quality education as the foundation for their academics and careers.


Industry estimates indicate that more than 300,000 Indian students go abroad to study at an international university or college every year. And, the numbers are growing!


Another reason behind Indian students going abroad to study is that higher-ranking universities in India have very high cut-offs for academic performance at entry levels. It is possible for Indian students to find entry into high-ranking universities overseas with relatively lower scores, exciting extra-curricular activities, strong recommendation letters, and well-written personal statements & essays.


Read Study in India vs Abroad after 12th.


An investment worth making


Do keep in mind that acquiring a degree (or diploma) from an international university or college is an expensive proposition. It requires, typically, anything upwards of Rs.20 lakhs per year in tuition fees – though less expensive programs are available.


Accommodation and living expenses will account for another additional Rs.15 lakhs – taking the total investment to Rs.35 lakhs or more per year for the student. Most Indian students can seldom afford such expensive education on their own. Usually, their tuition fees and living expenses are sourced through a mix of family funds, education loans, and financial aid (fee waivers, scholarships, and discounts) from the universities or colleges they are applying to.


Read the best affordable countries to study abroad.


Even then, the going is not easy as many reputed international universities and colleges may have entrance tests for these students to prove their merit and worth through a series of tests and other admissions criteria. Failing which, applicants are downgraded or rejected by the university or college they were applying to for admission. Just check out the Early Admission Statistics in the US for 2020 round (Class of 2024).


Many hopeful students have to apply to multiple universities or colleges to increase their chances of finding admission. Students always have a chance to look at higher-ranking universities by doing an extra year (studying or working) if their finances permit.


Related Articles:


What do Top Colleges like Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge, MIT Look For in International Applicants?

How to get into Ivy League and Elite Universities for MS

How to Get into Ivy League and Elite Colleges after 12th


It’s a life-long education


There is so much more to an international education: from tough selection procedures during admissions, to the structure, curricula, quality of faculty, facilities available for studies and research, the way education is administered, methods of evaluation and awarding marks, opportunities to elect to study different subjects, participate in extra-curricular activities, multicultural interactions with students from other countries and cultures, and an engaging campus life.


The lure of international education is also enhanced by opportunities in finding lucrative jobs in the international market. The experience and the money earned are significant assets to a student’s portfolio in life. And, from travel and entertainment perspectives, living in a foreign country while completing a degree program has its own attraction. The payback from an international education is life-long: it continues long after the classes, courses, exams, dissertations, and the certifications are completed.


Is Studying Abroad Worth It? What Do Statistics Say?


The US as a Case Study


The US is by far, the most popular study-abroad destination. It’s also among the most expensive countries to study abroad. Additionally, the recent changes in the immigration rules have also been discouraging. Compared with the U.S., many countries offer international students a more streamlined visa and post-graduation work opportunities and more affordable tuition rates.


To be honest, the employment opportunities for the folks with a US-degree are still very bright. If you are from a STEM background or studying MS or Ph.D. in the US, your career scopes are even better. Read the new H1-B visa rules (effective from April 30, 2019).


Is there any available data?


To gauge their perception of the ROI on their US education, WES surveyed 1,655 international alumni who graduated between 2012 and 2019. The research was conducted from February to March of 2019 as part of a study that will be released this fall on the international student experience at U.S. HEIs.


Now, let’s have a look at the statistics.


Satisfaction Rate of Students and Alumni


The overwhelming majority of international alumni indicated that their U.S. degree was a good investment, partly because of high returns both socially and culturally. Have a look a the figure below.


Source: WENR


Stay-Back Opportunities


The top five countries of citizenship in this study are India, China, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and the Philippines. If you look at the figure below, the vast majority of respondents from India are currently residing in the US.


Is studying abroad in the US worth?
Source: WENR


Recognition of US Degree Abroad


The majority of respondents from India and other countries said their US degree is valuable in the country where they currently reside.


Value of a foreign degree?
Source: WENR


Return On Investment (ROI)


75% of international graduates say that the overall cost of their tuition plus living expenses was worth the purchase of their educational experience in the US.


is studying abroad worth it?
Source: WENR


Employment Rate


For international alumni, securing employment and earning an income either in the US or abroad is a key measure of success. If you see the figure below, the employment statistics are pretty encouraging.


Job Prospects after Studying in the US
Source: WENR


So, as you can see, studying abroad in the US is still a very good option. Yes, the scenario has become complex and extremely competitive. So, you really need to work hard to improve your career and job opportunities in the US or any other foreign country.


So, how to do that? Is it still worth taking a risk?


Improving Your Career Opportunities While Studying Abroad


Competition in India is a Major Driving Force for Foreign Education


The intense competition in the Indian job market is a major factor in demand for study abroad, as is the drive for multiple degrees and a strong interest in helping to further build the Indian economy.


As per QS,  “a widespread feeling that there is an entrenched lack of equal opportunities in India, particularly in relation to employment. For this reason, participants across the country claim they are seeking international higher education to access the labor market of study destinations elsewhere…For some students, this means settling permanently in a new country, whilst others believe gaining an international qualification will give them a competitive edge in India upon return.


The second report by QS also points out that Indian students’ overwhelming interest in business studies and STEM fields is based in part on a desire to help build the Indian economy.


As one graduate student in engineering noted in his interview, “Electrical engineering in India is good but it is not as high as in Japan, so that’s the reason why I chose Japan and that’s the reason why I want to study there. I want to know the people, culture and the technology over there and I would love to come back to India and implement (my knowledge). India has given a lot to me so; however, it is possible, I am planning to pay back.


Feel free to read the two recent reports by QS –  Indian Applicants: Ambition, Competition and Fight for Employment and Indian Applicants: Focus on STEM Subjects and Academic Freedom.


Studying Abroad to Improve Career Opportunities


The US and UK are still popular study-abroad destinations. Alternative and new-age destinations are also there. So, you have got plenty of choices now.


A foreign degree is indeed useful for getting lucrative jobs abroad and in India as well. However, you need to be strategic and make well-informed decisions.


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How to Improve Job Opportunities Through Studying Abroad


Start with researching the in-demand subjects for a particular destination. See if you are choosing the right country or not.


Secondly, the university or college needs to be selected carefully against a basic checklist, starting with the most important point of them all:


– Does a foreign degree fit in with your plan for your future?

– Does a UG/PG degree from the school where you’ve been accepted have value in the job market?

– What are your options for funding – scholarships, loans, family support, etc.?

– Is the curriculum and faculty of a high standard?

– Are there enough opportunities to do internships or projects with a company during the program?

– How long will it take for you to recover your investment (tuition fees and living expenses)?


Once you start your program at a foreign university, you do need to study and work hard. You also need to consider effective networking and working on personal brand building to stand out in the job market.


This might look simple. But, a lot of planning and strategy are required. So, please feel free to read other blogs on Stoodnt. If you need personalized guidance, book a One-on-One Counselling Session and/or avail our Career Guidance and Admissions Consulting Services.


Related Articles:


Best Degrees to Get Jobs Abroad

How to Get Admitted at Top Universities for MS Abroad with Scholarships

How to Finance Your International Education and Save Money While Studying Abroad

Education Loan and Financing Tips to Study Abroad



Featured Image Source: College Magazine


References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

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