Trends, insights and research to inform growth and innovation strategies in international higher education.

December 23, 2009

GMAT Internationalized: Twice as many Chinese women take GMAT as Indian

According to the recent numbers released by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) for the testing year from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009:
"approximately 51 percent of the exams administered during the period were taken by citizens of nations other than the United States. This is the first time since the GMAT’s creation in 1954 that non-U.S. test takers have accounted for a majority of exams during a testing year."
GMAT is officially internationalized with more test takers being non-US citizens as compared to US citizens. GMAT test numbers clearly indicate that global demand for MBA is still growing. While GMAT is primarily used by US B-schools, demand for GMAT among Indians is driven by the growth of B-schools like ISB and IIMA-PGPX, which require GMAT for admissions to their MBA programs. For example, ISB retained its position as the #1 school to which Indian citizens send GMAT reports and IIMA entered at #9 for the testing year 2008. Harvard ranked fifth and Stanford tenth.

According to GMAC report, "Tests taken by citizens of India were up 7 percent in testing year 2009, to 30,633, capping a 128 percent increase during the past five years." Recession or not, GMAT numbers for India have been growing consistently.

Contrasting numbers for India and China
Like India, number of GMAT test takers increased for China too, however the drivers for growth are different. In TY 2008, top-5 schools to which Chinese send GMAT scores are still US schools, as compared to India where ISB and IIM have emerged as bigger drivers.

At other level, Chinese numbers are supported by the increasing number of women taking GMAT test. For the TY 2009, nearly twice as many Chinese women (14,659) took GMAT as compared to Indian women (7,370). Likewise, number of Chinese men taking GMAT is nearly 40% of the Indian men taking GMAT (8,891/23,263).

Over last five years, proportion of Indian women taking GMAT test has remained pretty much stagnant at around 23-24%. While for Chinese, proportion of women taking GMAT has increased from 56% to 62%, indicating increasing demand for MBA among Chinese women.
Based on these contrasting numbers, we can see that there are drivers which are helping Chinese women to pursue global MBA as compared to Indian women who are not seeing as much value addition from MBA. In India, ISB is one of the very few institutions which has consciously worked towards increasing awareness and access to women in its MBA programs. Nearly one-fourth of student body at the ISB comprises of women (150/579 students) In my earlier article in Economic Times, I also mentioned that B-schools need to partner with industry to create pipeline for professionally trained women managers. Goldman Sachs' project of 10,000 women managers is one such project.
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December 17, 2009

Guru Mantra: Dr. Raman Menon Unnikrishnan, California State University

Dr. Raman Menon Unnikrishnan is the Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at California State University, Fullerton. He is active in teaching and research in the areas of Control Systems, Power Electronics and Signal Processing. He has been a consultant to several industries and governmental agencies, and has been involved in technical and professional education for industries. He is active nationally and internationally in the field of engineering education and engineering accreditation.

Prior to joining Cal State Fullerton in 2001, Dr. Unnikrishnan was on the faculty of the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York where he also served as Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research for the College of Engineering from 1989 to 1991 and as the Head of the Electrical Engineering Department from 1991 to 2001. He received his BSEE degree from the University of Kerala in India, MSEE degree from South Dakota State University and the Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Dr. Unnikrishnan’s interests have always transcended his disciplinary base. At CSUF he has collaborated with the colleges of education, business and, humanities and social sciences in projects that are multidisciplinary in scope. He is a member of the Board of ASEI as well as WIDF (World India Diabetes Foundation) as a non-medical and non-diabetic representative. He is a member of the Fullerton Chamber of Commerce. He has been honored by numerous groups including the CSUF Chicano/Latino Faculty and Staff Association for his work in reaching out communities beyond his college.

Dr. Unnikrishnan is a past Chairman for the Rochester Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and has chaired many governing committees of the section. He is the recipient of the Eisenhart Award for Excellence in Teaching at RIT, a special professionalism award from the Xerox Corporation and an IEEE Region 1 Award for Leadership on advancing the continuing education needs of the engineering community. In 2000, he received the IEEE Third Millennium Award for Outstanding Achievements and Contributions. In 2006 he received the Missouri Honor Award for being an outstanding alumnus. Since 2008 he has been a Commissioner of the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET. In 2009 he was named “Distinguished Engineer” by South Dakota State University.Dr. Unnikrishnan is a Fellow of IEEE.

[I was born in Ernakulam/Cochin in central Kerala. I received my BSEE from the College of Engineering, Trivandrum of the University of Kerala and started the M Tech program at IIT Kharagpur. Did not finish the program at Kharagpur since I received a fellowship to come to the US.]

Rahul- Please share some of the highlights of your work as the Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Cal State Fullerton.
Dean Unnikrishnan- Some of my achievements as dean at CSUF is given below:
* Completed a Strategic Planning process for the College of Engineering and Computer Science that resulted in forging a vision for the college. The five definable and measurable points contained in the strategic plan are Recruitment, Retention, Research, Resources and Reputation.
* Established a major thrust for graduate recruitment with a focus on international recruitment in the college to take advantage of the dozens of cooperative agreements signed by the President and universities in primarily Latin America, Europe and Asia.
* Balanced the College of Engineering and Computer Science budget by instituting prudent fiscal controls and oversight every year since 2003-04, for the first time ever in the history of the college. The college had record deficits in the past.
* Established programs in computer engineering and software engineering. The MS program in Software Engineering is the first completely on-line program in the College and the second in the university. This program is reported to be among the top 5 such programs in the nation.
* Developed a close working relationship with Congressman Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) and his staff as well as the offices of Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana) and Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA). With help from Federal resources, he established a “National Center for Water Hazard Mitigation.” A similar initiative for establishing a “Center for Landslide and Earthquake Associated Research (CLEAR)” is underway.
* Active in the engineering accreditation field, he has led teams or has been a program evaluator in the US and abroad. His international experience includes accreditation visits to Turkey, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar. In 2009 he was appointed a mentor to India representing the Washington Accord.

Rahul- What are the top two competencies required to be a successful university leader?
Dean Unnikrishnan- This question was asked when I was interviewing for the dean’s job. “Thick skin and short memory,” I answered and the audience laughed and I got the job. Little did I know at that time how prophetic that off-the-cuff remark would become.

The position of a dean is one of the most self-directed positions that there is. One needs to swallow the pride with disappointments, focus on the long-term objectives and move on. Also, when people vent, one needs to forget, forgive and move on.

Beyond these, one needs to have some level of continued technical competency to garner respect from students, faculty and staff. I have strived to maintain my professional competency in spite of the many time consuming administrative commitments.

Finally, the axiom “a healthy mind in a healthy body” has been a guiding light for me. The stress that I experience at work melts away in the running trail. I have run many long distance events in the past including the 2009 Surf City Marathon. These runs and the training that goes along with them allow me to sharpen my mind, put the proverbial thinking cap during the many hours during the runs and thus maintain my sanity.

Rahul- Recently, India's bid for full membership to Washington Accord was turned down. You were one of the two mentors who visited India and reviewed India's application. What are top two recommendations you have for a) engineering institutions and b) policymakers for improving quality of engineering education in India.
Dean Unnikrishnan-
1. Separation of AICTE and NBA. Currently, NBA is subsumed by the supervisory weight of AICTE and the independence of NBA is shadowed by the allegations that have plagued AICTE. NBA must be an independent body with no political interference in order for the rest of the world to trust Indian accreditation process. We recommended the formation of a “National Board for Engineering Accreditation.”

2. The quota system is the scourge of quality. India is dumbing down its prominence to placate interest groups. I have enclosed a couple of slides from my presentation that graphically represents how poor quality students getting in through the miserable quota system propagates into poor quality graduates who then receive preferential entry into graduate school. The graduate school products receive quota based preference in teaching positions. They go on to teach poor quality students. The system disengages within a couple of cycles.
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December 09, 2009

International Schools: Pipeline for International Undergraduate Admissions

IIE Open Doors report for academic year 2008/09 indicated overall higher growth for undergraduate enrollments (10% increase) as compared to the graduate enrollments (2.3% increase). Specifically for India, nearly 725 more students were enrolled at the undergraduate level as compared to 3,300 fewer students enrolled at the graduate level in the academic year 2008/09. Although these numbers reflect enrollments before the setting of recession last fall, they clearly indicate that undergraduate level enrollments were gaining momentum as compared to graduate level for Indian students.

What is driving the growth of undergraduate level enrollment for India? The primary factor is the increasing base of wealthy individuals who have both the willingness and ability to spend money for better quality education both in India and abroad. Most of the Indian students (~70% in the US in 2008/09) have been studying abroad at the graduate level as duration for these programs is 1-2 years as compared to 4-years of undergraduate programs and also because they get funding in the form of assistantships/scholarships at graduate level as compared to limited scholarships available for undergraduate programs. Thus, affordability was the biggest constraint for Indian students aspiring to study abroad for undergraduate degrees.

With the increasing economic growth and expansion of elite class, affordability is finally catching up with aspirations. According to Merrill Lynch, although 2008 was a terrible investment year, the number of High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI with invested wealth of at least $1 million) Indians was 84,000. The population of HNWI in India is projected to be more than triple the size in 2018 as compared to 2008. Overall, this suggests larger base of prosperous families who would demand quality education and afford expensive undergraduate college for their children.

The growth of International Baccalaureate schools in India is an indicator that emerging wealthy class of India is ready to shell out significant amount of money for higher quality education.  For example, annual fee for IB programs could very easily be INR 100,000 per month (~US$ 2,000 p.m). At Oberoi International School, Mumbai, the annual tuition fee for IBDP (XI and XII grade) is INR 600,000 (~US$ 12,000).To put in perspective purchasing power of INR 600K, one could buy a brand new Ford Fusion in India with this money.

Even at this high price, IB has seen consistent growth in number of schools and enrollments (see Table). Currently, there are 65 IB World Schools in India offering one or more of the three IB program with more than 10,000 students registering for IB exams across the grades for 2009. The number of schools offering IBDP (XI/XII grade) doubled in three years from 30 in 2006 to 61 in 2009. Likewise, average number of students registered for IBDP grew four-fold in six years from 390 students in 2004 to 1650 in 2009.

This trend of growth of international schools is not limited to IB programs and other boards like the University of Cambridge International Examinations have become quite popular and have more than 200 schools offering its programs. A recent story in the New York Times noted that the enrollment for all international schools across grades grew to 45,873 in May'09 from 32,276 a year earlier and 5,600 in 2000.

This growing number of enrollment in international schools is a solid feeder pipeline for international undergraduate admissions. These international schools are  not only a captive segment for US colleges but also for European destinations as international schools provide a better opportunities of learning foreign language like German or French.

Even though the IB program faces some challenges in terms of curriculum and compatiability with the Indian education system, it has emerged as a promising route for students aspiring for undergraduate education abroad.Undergraduate admission officers should leverage this opportunity of engaging and attracting students at international schools to attend their universities.
- Rahul
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December 06, 2009

Guru Mantra: Rex Whisman, Principal, BrandED

Rex Whisman
BrandED consultants group

Rex Whisman is principal of the Denver-based, BrandED consultants group. Prior to founding BrandED, Rex was the assistant vice chancellor for communications and marketing at the University of Denver , where he led one of the first inside out approaches to higher education brand development. Rex is a blogger, brand strategist and keynote speaker. He has presented at numerous conferences and institutions in Australia , Canada , Europe and the United States . Rex is a member of the United Kingdom-based Academy of Marketing and the vice president for brand management at the Colorado Chapter of the American Marketing Association. Rex is a recognized international thought leader in higher education brand building, and develops strategies that allow institution’s to align their internal culture and external reputation. Rex believes a sustainable brand is based on mission, core values and stakeholder engagement. He advocates building a brand that honors the history and traditions of the institution, positioning it in a modern context, and executing the brand strategy through social media, mobile marketing and other technology.

Rahul- What are some of the unique challenges in building education brands as compared to other industries? How do you propose to overcome these challenges?
Rex- Brand building is still relatively new to higher education. Other industries such as financial services, health care, retail, transportation and other industries embraced branding much earlier than higher education. It might appear on the surface that the challenges in higher education are unique, but they are not. Organizations and industries go through an evolutionary process of brand building. In the early stages most organizations simply replace terms like advertising and marketing with the word branding. Many higher education institutions started their brand building efforts by limiting their approach to these visual representations. Once organizations realize that approach does not work and is not sustainable, the organization begins to believe that brand is more about developing a culture to support the mission and vision of the organization. This is where authentic brand building starts. I believe higher education as an industry is now at this point in the process.

In the book, Taking Brand Initiative, authors Mary Jo Hatch and Majken Schultz discuss three waves of branding. During the first wave, a marketing mind-set is established when communications and marketing professionals are charged with leading an organizational brand initiative. The approach is usually about visual executions that target external audiences like prospective customers and does not involve many internal stakeholders. After having little or no effect on the organization, a second wave, or corporate mind-set, hits the organization. During this phase internal stakeholders like those in human resources get involved and the brand building efforts begin to focus more on mission, core values and culture. The third wave is an enterprise mind-set where all touch points internally and externally are in alignment. I would say LEGO, Southwest Airlines and Starbucks are good examples of an enterprise mind-set. My vision is for all institutions of higher learning to achieve an enterprise mind-set.

Rahul- You have extensive experience in education branding and have also published a paper on internal branding for universities . What are the top two trends you are witnessing in the practice of education branding?
Rex- Most colleges and universities have taken what I would call a traditional approach to branding. They have created a new visual identity, developed a tagline and spent a good amount of money on annual advertising campaigns. At the same time the economy is forcing institutions to do more with less. As a result, colleges and universities are moving into the next phase in the natural evolution of brand building. They are coming to the realization that they need to engage their employees more in the brand building process, especially their faculties. Institutions are embracing the trend of internal branding. Another trend that I see happening is that colleges and universities are coming to grips with the fact that their brand is their name and what that name stands for. I think a combination of economic factors and brand-savvy prospective students are helping drive this understanding. Consequently, institutions and their internal stakeholders are discovering or re-discovering their mission and core values.

Every organization and every person on the planet is currently going through a process of introspection to determine what is important, to determine their place in the new economy and to create a sustainable approach to brand building. I am not talking about a green design plan or social responsibility. Although those are necessary too, I am talking about survival. A window has opened for higher education as an industry and for all colleges and universities to think about their history and tradition, to honor that history and tradition and place them in a modern context. Economic and technology forces are creating huge opportunities for colleges and universities around the globe to do so. Our role as brand professionals is to leverage those factors and help get the right stakeholders to the right institutions.

Rahul- Several higher education institutions in India aspire to be world-class. However, there is limited acceptance of the fact that educational brand building is a systematic approach that requires time, resources and expertise. What are your top two recommendations for Indian higher education institutions for effective brand building?
Rex- First and foremost is to think of brand as a noun first and a verb second. This provides the context for higher education institutions to understand their brand is their name, what that name stands for and the associations that people have when they hear or see that name. The next step is to determine how closely aligned stakeholder opinions are with the name, and how closely aligned those are with the strategic plan of the institution. In my work I help institutions develop a strategy to align their internal culture with their external reputation. That systemic process is branding. That systemic process is also sustainable and leads to world-class status. Rankings, visual identities and other solutions are simply aspects or outcomes of brand building.

There are increasing demands and expectations for institutions of higher learning to deliver on their brand promise, and to do so at warp speed. I have no argument with the first part of that statement. Every organization in every industry must understand who they are, what they stand for and to deliver on what they say they are going to do for their brand champions. However, when colleges and universities take a quick-fix approach to brand building, they run into problems. They satisfy the skeptics, water down their core values, under value their stakeholders and dilute their brand. Building a sustainable brand is a forever process. When higher education institutions establish that way of thinking about brand building they have the ability to recruit and retain champions for their brand. All colleges and universities can become world-class for a lifetime in the minds and hearts of brand champions.
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