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Does a UK Qualification Guarantee Better Pay in Malaysia?

Published by Afterschool.my on Apr 17, 2018, 11:58 am

Should you get a UK qualification or a Malaysian one? Will it make a difference?

One of the most discussed topics among students is studying abroad or locally, with some claiming that studying in a prestigious overseas institution will impress employers and help them get a higher salary than their peers who could only afford to study in Malaysia. Studying abroad is usually seen as a symbol of intelligence and calibre as most Malaysians tend to perceive UK degrees are superior to local degrees.

Wholesome experience

The argument behind this idea is that studying in the UK can provide a more wholesome experience for students as they get to explore a different educational environment, gain a world-class education, be exposed to a wide range of opportunities and different styles of teaching, and interact with people from different backgrounds.

Every graduate is concerned with their potential salary. Hence, they work towards getting the most expensive education, preferably in the UK, without researching whether it will really land them a high salary or a good position in the future. But does paying more for education mean a higher salary in the future?


The perception of obtaining an international degree

According to the QS Global Employer Survey Report, out of 10,000 companies surveyed, 80% deliberately hired graduates who have studied abroad. This is probably because obtaining an international degree is seen as a ‘higher standard’, especially if it is from a university or region that specialises in a particular field, such as studying culinary arts in France.

What students say

Emilie Ronald from the US studied a bachelor’s degree in Paris and master’s in London – Image via Fast Company

Studying abroad also gives you the opportunity to meet people of different nationalities with unique perspectives that can mould your point of view. An interview by Fast Company mentions Ronald’s thoughts and experiences on studying abroad. This is what she had to say: “I think this definitely gives me an edge and interesting stories and experiences to share—giving me a leg up on someone I would otherwise be on par with.”

Steve Geinitz from the US pursued his PhD in Switzerland – Image via Fast Company

Geinitz, who pursued his studies in Switzerland also mentioned: “Getting away from what you have always known and interacting with people from other parts of the world forces you to look at the world from someone else’s point of view. Not only does this help to be able to communicate more effectively, it helps to learn how to empathize more readily.”


More competent in the working field

Additionally, studying in the UK can help you brush up on the English language and even pick up different languages, making you more competent when looking for jobs. Perhaps even more so if you’ve graduated from an institution that is either ranked one of the top in the world or that have produced graduates who have contributed tremendously in the industry. Imagine if your employer found out that you studied in the same university as Bill Clinton!


Better work performance

Jobstreet.com confirms that overseas graduates earn approximately 12% more than local graduates in the private sector, as cited by The New Sunday Times. They attributed this to the communication skills, open-mindedness, adaptability and confidence of the overseas graduates. The executive director of the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF), Shamsuddin Bardan seconded the statistics and emphasised that overseas graduates generally perform better than their counterparts who studied in Malaysia. The heart of the matter is the mastery of the English language.

In a separate article by Forbes, a new research by PhD candidate Erik van ’t Klooster at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) has acknowledged that studying abroad makes one more employable.

But what if you studied at the most esteemed university, received the best education and did an internship at the richest oil company, yet your skills are similar to those who didn’t accomplish all of these? In other words, we would like to stress that not all graduates from Harvard became a Zuckerberg. While the university has earned its streak of awards and rankings and produced highly successful graduates, it will still require your initiative to learn.


No difference in hiring rate

Contrary to the points above, a research done by The Straits Times points out that it makes no difference to employers whether students have obtained their qualifications overseas or locally. The survey shows that three in four of the 214 companies are not biased towards those with an overseas degree. They also rate both kinds of graduates as having the same level of intelligence and hardworking attitude.

In another study by Hoo et al., the authors’ findings indicate that Malaysian employers generally hire local and overseas graduates at the same rate, with perhaps only 1% – 2% more overseas than local graduates.

With contradicting conclusions from various sources, let’s get back to the million-dollar question: does a UK qualification guarantee better pay in Malaysia?

All the sources, when compared side by side, come to an agreement: the crux of the matter is the quality of the graduate. Obtaining a degree locally or abroad will not make much of a difference if students don’t take advantage of the opportunity to grow and leverage the global experience. Your qualification may get you the upper hand at a job interview, but eventually it still boils down to your soft skills, experiences and personality. Those who have earned a local degree could be more competent than those with a UK degree. The University of Oxford will just be a name printed on your certificate if you don’t actually have the skills needed to accomplish the job. Hence, obtaining a UK qualification only makes a difference in your pay if you perform better than your peers of the same level.

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