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‘Trump effect’ hits US business student intake: GMAC

The latest figures for business school admissions suggest the ‘Trump factor’ is more significant than the ‘Brexit factor’ in determining international business student movement.

EU Business School, in Spain, where graduate business student numbers remain highEU Business School, in Spain, where graduate business course enrolments are still on the increase. Photo: EU Business School

Fears about living in the US have increased due to political decisions and rhetoric

Findings from the Graduate Management Admission Council, a global, non-profit association of 220 leading graduate business schools, suggest that European and Canadian courses are almost twice as likely to report growth in international applicants compared with the US.

“International applicants represent 57% of US applications, 70% of Canadian volume”

Only 32% of of US courses reported growth in 2017, compared to 49% in 2016. Meanwhile, 77% of Canadian and 65% of European courses have reported increases. This shows increases in both markets on 2016, but a particularly dramatic rise for Canada, which saw its admissions jumping from 29% from 2016.

The report is based on responses from 965 graduate business courses over 351 institutions in 45 countries, and notes that distribution of mobile graduate students varies widely. 

“Overall, the 2017 report findings show that international applicants represent 57% of US application volumes, 70% of Canadian volume, 89% of European volume, 20% of East and southeast Asian volume, and less than one percent of Indian volume,” the report reads. 

“A strong economy and a disruptive political climate are likely contributing to the downward trend in some US applications” 

The drop on the international recruitment front in the US has been offset, to some extent, by a domestic enrolment resurgence for the larger business schools.

Over two-thirds of courses with class sizes of over 200 have reported growth in domestic applications. Smaller courses (under 50 students), however, have only grown by 38%.

“Demand for graduate business education remains strong, especially among the largest programs, which tend also to be the most well-known programs with brand recognition,” said Sangeet Chowfla, GMAC president and CEO.

“While non-US programs are thriving, a strong economy and a disruptive political climate are likely contributing to the downward trend in application volumes among smaller US programs this year,” Chowfla added.

Anecdotal evidence collected by GMAC further highlights the mixed fortunes of the US and the UK, and the perhaps unexpected outcomes they have experienced post-Brexit and post-Trump respectively. 

“Application numbers from European students have remained stable in comparison with previous years, and our tuition fees are now more affordable to international candidates due to the drop in the value of sterling,” commented a UK course leader for full-time two-year MBAs.

Meanwhile, a US counterpart admitted fears about living in the US have increased due to political decisions and rhetoric. 

“Given the immigration policies advocated by the present administration as well as the general tenor of the broader conversation in the US regarding immigrants and foreigners, we found our international prospective students cited greater anxiety about living and studying in the United States than in prior years,” they told The PIE News

In terms of overall growth worldwide, Latin America reported a 26% increase over a range of courses; Africa saw a 45% increase in MBA applications; the UK reported a 78% increase in MBAs, with a 57% growth in business masters; Canada experienced a 74 percent increase in MBA applications and a 67% increase in business masters; India recorded an 85% increase in MBAs, and China registered a 92% increase in MBAs.

A rise in the number of female course applicants was prominent among other key trends and indicators flagged by the GMAC report. The percentage of female applicants has risen five percent since 2013, from 37% to 42% overall. The picture is particularly striking in Africa India and China, with rises of 45%, 40%, and 43% in their respective MBA programs.

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