From the field: Exploring undergraduate recruitment opportunities in India

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • India is generally seen as a market for graduate recruitment, and rightly so
  • However, the market has grown quickly in recent years and, as its outbound numbers continue to increase, the full complexity and variety of this key sending market is coming more into view
  • In particular, the last couple of years have seen a pronounced increase in the numbers of Indian students going abroad for undergraduate studies
  • We take up this topic today in conversation with Amit Jalan, the managing director of EEC

India has been a major driver of growth in overall mobility, and particularly so over the last few years. While it is still somewhat overshadowed by China – which remains far and away the world’s leading source of international students – the two are on notably different trajectories this decade.

In fact, India’s growth actually outpaced China’s (in percentage terms) between 2013 and 2016. Average annual growth over that period was just under 4% for China, but India grew more than three times as fast with average growth of just over 13% per year.

Indeed, as China’s year-over-year growth has begun to slow, India is emerging as a more important driver of future growth for receiving markets, including those outside of the major English-speaking destinations, such as China and Germany.

India has traditionally been market for graduate recruitment. While it also sends strong numbers for vocational training, the vast majority of students over the years have gone abroad for advanced degrees, and this certainly remains true today.

But there have been signs recently of growing demand for undergraduate studies as well. The US, for example, has seen two consecutive years of strong growth in Indian undergraduate enrolment, with a more than 30% increase between 2014 and 2015 and another 14% bump in undergraduate numbers from 2015 to 2016.

Amit Jalan is the managing director of EEC, an education agency with offices throughout the Western India state of Gujarat. Mr Jalan is a frequent conference speaker on market trends and we recently sat down with him to explore further some of the issues and opportunities in undergraduate recruitment in the Indian market.

In our first interview segment below, Mr Jalan attributes the growth in demand for undergraduate studies to increasing income levels and the expansion of the international schools sector within India.

Turning to the question of market entry for undergraduate recruitment, Mr Jalan adds, “My best advice for schools is to develop relationships with agents, but [first] check how successful they have been with undergraduate recruitment…rather than overall numbers. That will give you a reality check in terms of how efficient that agency might be for an undergraduate school.”

Along with agents, Mr Jalan highlights the importance of building strong links with high schools in India in our next interview segment below.

In our next video excerpt, Mr Jalan highlights some of the key demand factors that weigh on the choice of institution and destination for Indian undergraduate students planning for studies abroad. He notes affordability as an important issue for this market segment, along with proximity to family and friends already settled abroad and institutional or subject rankings. But more than rankings, he emphasises that, “The idea is to go into the market and talk about your particular strong areas. What is your school good at? What are you well known for? How are you going to support the student, and how do you connect their education to a career?”

Looking ahead, Mr Jalan highlights Canada’s growing popularity among Indian students as one of the important trends that will further shape the market over the next few years. In our final segment, he cites Australia’s easing student visa policy for Indian students as another important development, and projects that Canada and Australia will continue to challenge the traditional lead of the US in the market.

For additional background, please see:



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