MOTIVATION for studying overseas has been highlighted in TWO recent reports. Both can be “red herrings” when talking of “Indian students”.

QS released the Analysis of Student Mobility 2013 report and lists “Would like to work there after graduation” as No. 4 factor which 12% of their respondent listed. The other linked motivator “ Would like to work globally after graduation” is not even listed amongst the options for the student and this is only one of the failings of such a survey. The report that has gained publicity across the world simply because of the QS branding and good packaging does more harm than good. A closer look at the methodology of the survey indicates that the targeted respondents are also already quite selective and further no effort has been made to differentiate between the motivations for students in different parts of the world. There are umpteen studies now that give us a clearer perspective that motivation for Indian students differ from motivation for Chinese student and differ from the motivation of an European student seeking study abroad. Such a generalised report doesn’t deserve the attention it has received simply because of such generalisations can cause more harm and hide the real motivations for an International student when seeking education overseas. The QS report can be accessed from the QS website (

The Top 10 Motivations as per QS:

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SANNAMS4, which is a profit making company innovator aimed at wooing International Education Providers seeking a quick-fix short-cut solution to having an in-country presence in India made a presentation at the 2014 Annual Conference of AIEA in USA. The report listed the “Motivations” for an “Indian” student and is certainly an improvement to the QS report as it is focussed on a more defined target group. However, I take this report too with a pinch of salt (or should I say “spice”) as it is not really a survey or solid-research but just a collection of opinions of the “in-country reps” that are working with them. If we look at the profile of the reps and the education providers (and the destinations), we clearly are talking of opinion of a fairly small sample (though the presentation indicates that the collective group has been in touch with a huge number of students which is such a generalisation of totally the number of students who may or mayn’t have met them at various events). A fairly opinionated sample indeed for an institution to base it’s strategy. Education providers from only a few countries actively use Sannams4 and even if the survey went out to a few non-Sannams4 in-country reps, the list of respondents has not been provided. Hence it cannot be a report reflecting “motivation” for all students from India seeking overseas. Having pointed out the folly, the “perspective” is still an improvement to the generalisation that QS report presented to us. As per this report, 19% of the student chooses to study overseas for the value it offers for global employment and another 15% for the chance it offers to settle overseas. I would tend to add these two to indicate that 34% are looking at settling/working overseas. The Sannams4 presentation is on

Top Motivations as per the Sannams4:

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So what is my “perspective”?

  • Surveys should avoid generalisations and should highlight that the motivations vary between a postgraduate (graduate) student and undergraduate student. The postgraduate students are more inclined to be motivated by the post-study outcomes and post-study-work outcomes than the undergraduate students who are more likely to be focussed on “value of the qualification” or on the “repute/ranking of the institution” …
  • The way the motivation for an Indian student (by extension the other sub-continental students) varies from the motivation of International students generally; I believe that even within India or the region, the motivation varies between one region and the other. This should be indicated in any “India-centric survey”
  • I have found that the motivation of a “full fee-paying” student is different to the student who may be funded through a government or institution scholarship. The scholarship student is less likely to turn down a destination because that destination has greater hurdles in the post-study-work or migration options.

So what is possibly the No.1 motivator for an Indian student to study overseas:

Generally speaking Sannams4 says what I have been listing too. However, I am of the opinion that  “majority” of sub-continental students want to work globally or use studies as pathway to migration.  This motivator is much greater than 34% as suggested by them. It can be closer to 60-80% for the fee-paying postgraduates while it is lower for the undergraduate students. It also varies between regions and I would expect that 80-90% of students from Punjab, Gujarat and Hyderabad would use education as a pathway to work or settle overseas.

I have been yelling through my blogs and writings that the “prime” motivator for Indian students to choose a particular destination or a particular institution overseas is not as much the ranking or the quality of the degree (it is a factor but after the prime motivator) but the ability to be able to use the education to larger career goals. In today’s times I often come across faculties and education marketers who are concerned that despite their top-status, they are experiencing a lower “pull” in Indian market and they need to assure themselves that the answer is not so much internal as it is external.

Only this one “motivator” can explain the reason for the dip in “Higher Ed” student numbers that UK experienced from India over the last few years.

See how this contrasts between India and China and further proving that generalised studies (such as the one of QS) of motivators for “international students” can mis-lead policy makers. (Source: UniversitiesUK blog)


There is a need for a more substantive research than what has been put out by QS and the Sannams4. It will come later this year as I intend to survey thousands of students from all regions of the country who walk-in to education fairs organised by various entities. There is a need to talk of South Asia (or sub-continent) as a market but also a need to indicate how regions within it differ in its motivators.

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