Why Studying at Top Local Universities Can Be Better Than Studying Abroad?

university students graduation

“Kenapa harus sekolah jauh-jauh keluar negeri kalo cuma dapet sekolah yang lebih buruk daripada sekolah di Indonesia? Kalo mau sekolah di luar negeri, lebih baik untuk mendapatkan sekolah yang lebih bagus”

Every year, I receive questions from parents and colleagues whether they should send their kids abroad for college or send them to a top, local university. This becomes one of the first questions that financially-capable families normally ask, before they decide even further where to specifically place their kids for undergraduate education.

In Indonesia, Universitas Indonesia (UI), Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB) & Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) is considered as the Harvard, MIT and Stanford of Indonesia. On the other hand, studying in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Singapore is the most popular destination for Indonesian students to study abroad.

“General Rule: This article recommends studying abroad only if students are admitted to the top 5 universities in UK, Australia or Singapore and top 10 universities in US in each areas of study. If not, it may be better to study at a top local university such as UI, ITB, or UGM.”

When we choose a university, some people (like myself but not all), usually see how could this university boost our career prospect in Indonesia, personal development without sacrificing relationship with your family? If this were the main goals (which means excluding travel and living experiences overseas), this article argues that studying at UI/ITB/UGM is superior to studying abroad, and here are the reasons.

1. World-class education

UI/UGM/ITB are world-class institutions and their academic standards are very competitive, reflected on their university rankings and notable alumni. This implies that students will receive a similar knowledge and skills in comparison to top universities abroad. This opinion is based on my experience studying abroad and from conversations with my closest friends who also studies abroad. UI/UGM/ITB are also considered as the leading universities in Southeast Asia which makes them recognizable in the area. In addition, if we select universities based on their specialized or popular courses, it will be even better in terms of quality and competitive-ness.

For example, UI is known for their Faculty of Economics and Business which produces notable alumni such as Sri Mulyani (Managing Director of the World Bank), Agus Martowardojo (Governor of the Central Bank of Indonesia), Bambang Brodjonegoro (current Finance Minister), Chatib Basri (former Finance Minister) and many others. ITB on the other side, is known for their rigorous engineering program with notable alumni sitting at the Boards of Directors/Commissioners of major companies (both local and multinational companies) in Indonesia. Thus, we should never underestimate the quality of education at these top 3 universities of Indonesia.

 

2. Networking

Undergraduate students at UI, ITB, UGM have great chances to be the next generation of government leaders and corporate leaders in the future that has strategic positions. The previous example of the past four finance ministers of Indonesia were alumni of Faculty of Economics University of Indonesia and many alumni of UGM and ITB sit at strategic positions in many state-owned enterprise, multinational companies and other institutions. These strategic positions could be acquired by your classmates at these top universities in Indonesia and there is always a chance that we are offered job positions from our classmates back at college or able to create business deal through our connections.

“Enrolling at UI, ITB, UGM means you enter a band of the best young individuals in Indonesia which will become future leaders, both in the private sector and the public sector in Indonesia.”

Furthermore, reiterating the view of Satria Sambijantoro, a journalist at The Jakarta Post, studying in Indonesia, especially in top universities like UI, ITB, or UGM, would expose you to a band of Indonesia’s future leaders or important people, knowns as “Guan Xi” in China.

The major shortcoming if you get your bachelor’s degree in mid-level universities in UK, US, or Australia is that you will find it difficult to enter their job markets. First, jobs are still scarce due to lagging effect of the global recession, as youth unemployment are high in developed world such as UK, US, or even Australia. Second, you are foreigners — moreover from a developing country like Indonesia — and there’s tendency for companies to opt for local graduates (US, UK citizens). Third, you also come from mid-level universities — not Oxford, Wharton, LSE, NUS, Cambridge, or Harvard — so the job opportunities might be limited, with top companies in the West possibly giving you cold shoulder if you want to work for them. In the end, if you decide to come back to Indonesia because you cannot land jobs overseas, this will complicate the matter because you lack the competitive edge compared to students in UI, ITB, or UGM: you don’t have the guanxi.

 

3. Solid branding in the corporate world

UI/UGM/ITB are widely recognized in the corporate world as top universities. Somehow, the Indonesian society and corporate world assumes that students from UI/ITB/UGM are the best and the most intelligent students in Indonesia. I can’t say that this is always true all the time because it goes back to each student. But the Indonesian society and recruiter today is leaning on towards that perception. Thus, this is the third reason why studying at UI/UGM/ITB can be superior in comparison to studying at a mid-ranking university (or even un-ranked university) in the US, UK or Australia for example.

If we talk by world rankings alone, top Indonesian universities only make it to the 200 rank, but that is in the eyes of world rankings. If you go back to Indonesia and compare the world’s Rank #79 vs ITB for example. No one in Indonesia remembers or knows about the Rank #79 of the world universities and they would assume as a “normal or unknown university”. But if you ask about ITB, everyone recognizes it as one of the top-tier (if not the best) universities in Indonesia with alumni sitting at most boards of big companies in Indonesia. And this article is talking about Indonesian who wants to work in Indonesia, so the perspective from the Indonesian context should be the standing point.

Related: Goldman Sachs or McKinsey? Neither.

The corporate world does not see studying abroad as appealing anymore if you are not admitted to the top schools or “Ivy League” schools in that country. If you are saying that studying abroad at Harvard or Yale is better than studying at UI/UGM/ITB, then I totally agree with you. But this article tries to compare studying at UI/UGM/ITB with studying at a mid-ranking university abroad. Bottom-line is in the authors view and experience, the corporate world prefers UI/ITB/UGM rather than an unpopular, mid-ranking university abroad or at least they are indifferent between the two.

 

4. Living in close proximity with your children

While it is true that studying abroad teaches you life lessons because you stay away from your parents. Studying in Indonesia does not mean you can’t learn about being independent. What if a student from Jakarta goes to UGM in Jogja to study? What if a kid from Papua goes to UI in Depok to study? They will also learn living an independent life without their parents. But to begin with, that is not within the scope of this study. The explanation is only to counter the argument that states “studying abroad teaches you to become independent”.

Now, the other important reason why pursuing an undergraduate education in Indonesia is better is because you are able to live in close proximity with your kids. For a lot of students and families in Indonesia, maintaining a close relationship with family members is very important.

In addition, you parents will have better supervision and access to your children if they were in the same city. This is especially important when you have kids with a not-so-good behaviour. Thus, this could be one of the reasons why studying at local universities such as UI/UGM/ITB may be better option in comparison to studying abroad.

 

5. Greater Return on Investment (ROI)

Last but not least, let’s talk about money. Sending your kids abroad for education requires a lot of money (investment). Now this may not be a problem for many super-wealthy families in Indonesia. But for families that are in the “rich but not so rich” kind of situation or wants to be more cost-efficient, you may want to re-think about the cost of sending your kids abroad. I think we all know that sending your kids to study abroad (US, UK & Australia) cost you around US$20,000 per semester (or around Rp. 500 million per year for one kid), including accommodation, transportation cost, meals and allowances. In contrast, $3,000 per semester is enough for a “luxurious” life for college student in Indonesia. Hence, sending your kids to UI/UGM/ITB is 80 to 90 percent cheaper than sending them to US, UK or Australian universities.

Now the important point is that, when your kids graduated and come back to Indonesia, regardless of where they earn their degree, most of them will receive the same amount of salary of around IDR 8 million per month. Of course some can achieve a higher salary, but that is usually either they go to an Ivy League school or because they are extremely special or “gifted”. But on average, all graduates, both local graduates (from Indonesian universities) and those who graduated from mid-rank universities abroad will receive a similar amount of pay when they decide to work in Indonesia. I have witness this phenomena in a lot of companies that I have worked with and this is truly the case.

This concludes why studying at UI, ITB or UGM will give you a higher Return on Investment, because what you initially invested for the tuition fee, tuition fee, and accommodation cost is significantly lower than the cost of studying abroad. While the “average return” (or your kid’s first salary) after they graduate is pretty much the same regardless of where your kids obtain their undergraduate degree (locally or abroad).

Related: Day in the Life of a J.P. Morgan Intern

Conclusion

  • Top Indonesian universities are world-class and competitive.
  • Indonesian universities enables students for effective networking with their peers, local professors, local business leaders and local governmental leaders
  • Solid university branding in the eyes of the corporate world.
  • Living in close proximity with your children.
  • Greater Return on Investment (ROI).

Notes:

  1. This article is written for Indonesian families and Indonesian students who wants to return to Indonesia to work after graduating. The term “studying abroad” is associated with studying in another country other than Indonesia.
  2. This article does not take into account the externalities of living abroad and the experiences associated with it. One may argue that with studying abroad you can meet new friends, travel to new places and enjoy new experiences, but that is not within the scope of study of this article.
  3. This article only conducts a comparative analysis of studying at local universities and studying abroad which is solely based on career prospect, student opportunities (scholarship, internship, competition, training), investment cost in real monetary terms and relationships with family.
  4. The term “studying abroad” is more focused on studying abroad in the US, UK, Australia, Canada and Singapore. While it may also refer on certain cases to other countries. But in general, the term is referring to the 5 countries aforementioned.
  5. This article first appeared here.

 

Disclaimer: This is an Opinion Article and it only reflects the views of the author and not the company or institution that may be associated with the Author. This article also does not have any intention to undermine or attack certain individuals or parties.


Written by: Melvin Hade

Melvin Hade is a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, Indonesia. He received his Bachelor of Economics from the Faculty of Economics of the University of Indonesia where he graduated with Cum Laude honors and the Highest GPA Award. Prior to management consulting, Melvin had rich working experiences ranging from Investment Banking at Credit Suisse, Wealth Management at UOB Bank, Tech Startup at Uber and Academic Research at NTU.

In addition, major institutions and companies across Asia have granted him 4 distinct scholarships from 2007 to 2017. Most recently, Melvin represented Indonesia at the G20 Youth Summit 2017 in Germany and is the youngest winner of LinkedIn’s Power Profile in Indonesia this year.

This article is published on ProspectsASEAN.com with the writer’s consent and originally appeared on LinkedIn. You can read it here.


Feature Image is CC0 Licensed: Free for Commercial Use, No Attribution Needed

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Melvin Hade is a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, Indonesia. He received his Bachelor of Economics from the Faculty of Economics of the University of Indonesia where he graduated with Cum Laude honors and the Highest GPA Award. Prior to management consulting, Melvin had rich working experiences ranging from Investment Banking at Credit Suisse, Wealth Management at UOB Bank, Tech Startup at Uber and Academic Research at NTU. In addition, major institutions and companies across Asia have granted him 4 distinct scholarships from 2007 to 2017. Most recently, Melvin represented Indonesia at the G20 Youth Summit 2017 in Germany and is the youngest winner of LinkedIn’s Power Profile in Indonesia this year.

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