Since my last post, a few people have sent private messages requesting my opinion on the productivity of foreign-educated African graduates vs. locally-educated African graduates at work places. While I may not be the best person to compare both sets of graduates, I do have my views.
I believe the success or productivity of a person ultimately depends on the individual, although the environment (including the educational environment) a person finds his/herself in, can play a significant role. I say this because I have seen many Africans with first class degrees from their home universities, struggle in foreign universities when they try to gain a further degree. On the flip side, I have also seen professionals who barely passed their degrees in their home countries, excel in foreign universities.
Some may argue that it is because the standards are higher in some countries than others, making studying somewhat overwhelming. To an extent, I agree. However, I also believe that a determined person will excel in “many” environments.
Foreign-educated professionals are not inherently smarter than African-educated professionals. What we see is what happens when intelligence is or is not nurtured. Many foreign universities provide excellent levels of “free” support to their students – including Africans. Although branded as “free”, I would always argue that they are really not, as the cost is incorporated into tuition.
Nurturing intelligence can be expensive. According to Education UK, the annual undergraduate tuition ranges from £7,000 to £25,000 and postgraduate tuition, £7,000 to more than £34,000. In simple terms, four years of university study can set a student back by anything between £28,000 and £100,000, for tuition alone. This is way beyond the reach of the average African.
The cost of education in many foreign institutions, almost always reflects the level of support provided to students as “expensive” universities need to justify why students should pay as much as they charge for tuition. If they do not, student applications will move elsewhere. Support is given to students to ensure they effectively maximise their time while studying and have a platform to stretch their intellect or challenge their thinking. It also provides a platform for students to strive for knowledge, understand their strengths and weaknesses, improve their hard & soft skills and become well-rounded individuals.
The right university support exposes students to the thinking of global leaders in their fields and creates opportunities. This is the least students; especially international students deserve to receive to compensate for the high cost of their education. Vincenzo Raimo – the director at the University of Nottingham’s International Office agrees. To him, “international students need and deserve a level of personalised support and service commensurate with the level of investment they are making by coming to our universities”.
So how does university support reflect on a graduate’s productivity in a work place? Good university student support services are geared towards improving not just their technical capabilities, but also their functional abilities. Graduates with the right attributes are better able to succeed than those without them. When people are given the right support, they tend to flourish.
It must however be pointed out that universities are not the only platforms for students to gain work-related skills. Successful students regardless of where they are based, go beyond their school environments to access resources that can help them become employable and succeed in their chosen professions. It may be more difficult for some to access them than for others, but it is still possible, especially as the global digital divide decreases by the day.
It is a documented fact that on the average, a typical student from the USA, UK, Australia or Canada has access to a lot more educational resources than a typical African student. However, not every student from these countries, even with all the student and alumni support available, is successful. Not even students from top schools such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, University of Cambridge, University of Oxford and Yale University.
It is important for us to note that despite its challenges and although probably not proportional to its population, Africa still manages to produce graduates and industry leaders that can compete in the global economy.
An all-round education that focuses on developing students hard and soft skills, connecting them to the best employers or helping them identify entrepreneurial skills is a recipe for success. However, it comes down to the individual to strive for it, to really want it. According to a Forbes article, “recent graduates or more experienced workers – need to step in and take skills development… into their own hands”. If your environment is not providing what you need, look for alternatives where possible.
This is my humble opinion.
You may want to read my last article: