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Paul Marshall, the Association of Business Schools, UK

The Association of Business Schools is a sector wide body representing 120 UK business schools and partners. We talked to Paul Marshall, Chief Executive, about the changing international market for business management courses.

The PIE: You were CEO of the 1994 Group of universities before taking over at ABS. How, did that shape your international outlook?

ABS has 120 members within the UK and a growing international membership

PM: I was the first Executive Director at the 1994 Group so I helped formalise operations there. I tried to understand what the big issues were for our universities and develop policy around those, and to work with partners and the media to try and put that across.

One of the things that I did a little bit of in that job was actually looking at international partnerships. Partly because the fact that from my point of view in terms of particular policy development, it seemed that a lot of the big issues that we were looking at in the UK were not like dissimilar to things or what happening in Australia or in the US.

“In the UK Business Studies took a long time to evolve, unlike in the US or France”

The PIE: Has that international view continued at the ABS?

PM: I moved to the Association of Business Schools in January and that was partly because I was interested in working for a sector wide body. We have around a 120 members at the moment, around a 110 business schools within the UK, a number now of corporate members. But we also have an international membership and that’s growing fast. But the issue is for us is that business schools are very much a global market. A lot of our students are international students coming into the UK, but also our faculty are very, very mobile and likely to work overseas at some point in their careers.

So for us as a representative body it’s very important that we can work together to understand what the international market is and what the big issues are internationally. We also need understand the choices that individuals are making, because when somebody’s choosing to study an MBA, they are not necessarily choosing between three universities all in the same city but three universities maybe in three different cities around the world.

The PIE: Which countries are you engaged with most?

PM: We have links with business school associations across Europe, Africa, Australia, Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Canada and the US.  For the last five years, the ABS has run jointly with the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) a joint international deans programme where we have around 15 deans a year drawn from all around the world that come together and then go on a series of visits to different countries to visit business schools, understand what’s going on, understand what the challenges are in that country, and what the strategy is.

This programme this year visited Oslo, Montreal and Paris.  Next year we will be taking the international dean to Turkey, Singapore and Germany.

“About one in three of all international students studying in the UK are studying business and management”

The PIE: Of your members, how many rely predominantly on the international market? 

PM: About one in three of all international students studying in the UK are studying business and management which is a huge, huge percentage. And actually if you look the other way round, if there are half a million students studying UK degrees offshore, 350,000 of them are studying business management education, so again that’s a huge market for us.

The PIE: What do you see as key trends in student recruitment into UK business schools? Where they are coming from and how is it changing?

PM: The big market was obviously India, very much, and China. I think there are challenges at the moment which have been brought about by the government’s immigration policies. But this year, we’re seeing a diversity in terms of where international students are coming from, so a big drop off in interest from India for example.

The PIE: Do you think this is about the loss of post study work opportunities?[More>>]

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