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BW Businessworld

'Singapore Is A New Destination for International Education'

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There are many reasons why students from India (and elsewhere) are flocking to study in Singapore  but the opportunity to study courses offered by universities in the UK, US, France and Australia in a Singapore campus is definitely a strong motivator. The Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS) is one such international educational destination which is a de facto overseas campus for a number of international universities whose courses are taught here. Shivajee Dewangan currently working with MDIS as a country manager possesses more than 6 years of experience in field of International Education and has counselled more than 1000 international students to study in Singapore during this period. In an interview with BW|Businessworld's Alokita Datta, Dewangan talks about why MDIS steers clear of a recognised university status, the popularity of their management programmes, and what is enabling more Indian students to come to Singapore.
 
Would you consider MDIS a popular destination for (international) students primarily from Suoth Asia?
Our international students hail mostly from South Asian countries but India is a very big market for us. I focus on the admission processes of Indian students. MDIS is one of the oldest educational institutes in Singapore which was established in 1956. We run on a not for profit business model; the institute is run by a council whatever profit is earned is invested back for the growth of the company. We have about 12,000 students (8000 local and 4000 international students from 76 countries across the world) in our Singapore campus, across various disciplines. The fact that we have such a large number of local students gives us a lot of confidence that locally we are very strong and well recognised. Our international students come mainly from China, India, Myanmar and Vietnam but we also have a good number of students coming from European countries as well.

What according to you are the factors that attract Indian students to MDIS?
Just two years ago the exchange rate of Singapore dollar against Indian rupee was SGD 33-34 now it has gone up to 47.  Even though we haven't increased our fee but the cost of education for Indian students in Singapore has increased significantly. In order to help students we have come up with new short duration programmes during which students save a lot of time and money (particularly in living expenses). For the MBA programme(awarded by the University of Sunderland) , the effective cost after grants and scholarships comes to Rs 9.25 lakh which is almost as much as the cost of pursuing your MBA in India (if not less).  We offer programmes that are accredited by various universities based in the UK, US, France and Australia. From day one, a student studying the Sunderland MBA programme, for instance, will be a student of that university but studying in Singapore in the MDIS campus.

Do you feel the one year MBA has more takers, particularly from the point of view of cost effectiveness?
We have always offered a one year MBA programme even on campus. It is only for our bachelor's programmes that we have used our advanced diploma into the BA programme. Every year we get more than 200 students from India for our undergraduate programmes. We have many schools within MDIS among which the biggest is the MDIS business school (with 8000 students) then there are schools of engineering, fashion technology, media and communication, life sciences, e-learning, tourism and hospitality as well as psychology. We have 6 intakes in a year for business programmes.

We have noticed that the number of Indian students have been increasing since the past 5 years progressively. The reason, in my opinion, is that Singapore is still a new destination for international education, if you compare with the UK and the US especially. The Singapore government started marketing the country's educational institutes only since 2004. Indian students who have studied in Singapore or are settling here, their word of mouth information about educational opportunities in Singapore is also good, and is helping us. A small country but it is the hub of more than 7000 MNCs. Another advantage for us is the geographical location; we are only 5 hours away from Delhi and 3 hours away from Chennai. When Indian students study or live in Singapore, they don't really feel they are away from family. Singapore is also known for its physical and cultural safety which is greatly reassuring to parents. We are seeing an increase in our intake of students from Delhi in particular for our undergraduate programmes. They usually enrol in course during the period of September and October.

Which are some of the other post graduate programmes in management you offer?
At the post graduate level we offer different programmes: we offer MBA, MIB (Masters in International Business) as well as MSc programmes in business, finance, healthcare management. Typically in any MBA programme, 60-70 per cent of the students are from India but for MSc. Programmes the number would be 10 or 20 per cent. And for the MIB programme, which is offered by the French business school, Grenoble Graduate School of Business (GGSB) 40 to 50 per cent of the students are from India. Every year we also have 8 to 10 French students who come all the way from France to study in MDIS.

Has the MIB programme gaining popularity over the years?
Since the MIB course is offered by GGSB, which is a Triple Crown university (it has accreditations from AMBA, AACSB and EQUIS) and as part of their quality requirement, 70 per cent of the course is offered by the visiting faculty from France's on campus faculty. The experience of studying in Singapore under the guidance of renowned faculty from GGSB makes a lot of difference to a student in terms of value addition and class room learning. We only have one intake for the course in October and accept only 40 students.

Could you elaborate on the eligibility criteria for your MBA programmes?
We offer different MBA programmes; we have the fifteen month MBA from The University of Bradford (UK) which is among the top 20 business schools in Europe, for which we require students to have a 3 year full time work experience. However, the University of Sunderland and University of Wales MBA programmes are open to fresh graduates. As an institute, we are not a degree awarding body (since we are not a university) which are given to students by the respective universities. We had the opportunity to change our status to that of a university but our management body decided not to since, being an institute gives us a lot of flexibility to work with renowned universities and offer their programmes in our campus, instead of becoming a small university.

Do you offer any programmes in the field of executive education?
Very soon we will be starting with an executive education programme for which we have partnered with a university from the UK (name yet to be revealed) either by the end of this year or in early 2014 for students with more than 8 years of corporate experience.

Does MDIS have plans to start operations in India?
We are looking for educational partners in India and expanding our operations. But at the moment there isn't enough clarity in terms of rules, regulations and policies so we have currently withheld our plans for India. We have an overseas campus in Tashkent (Uzbekistan) which is 5 years old, where many of the programmes offered here (Singapore) are offered, and another campus which is under construction in Malaysia. We will start offering courses in Malaysia this year and the campus will be ready by 2016 where we have invested 130 million Malaysian ringgit in developing that campus. We would want to work with Indian b-schools in the next few years but we are still in the process of exploring possibilities right now.