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Brexit & Terrorism Are Impacting Where Applicants Go To Business School In Europe

One-in-two applicants we surveyed said geopolitical issues in Europe have a significant impact on their choice of business school

Wed Nov 28 2018

A lot has been written on the effect of the political environment on applications to business schools in the United States. But Europe is not immune to political disruption.

Recent years have seen the Brexit vote, Catalonia declare independence from Spain, the rise of far-right groups, and the persistent threat of terror attacks.

These trends have been accompanied by unwelcome headlines, sensationalist news coverage, and Donald Trump’s twitter tirades on terrorism.

So, why is this important? Well, these headlines, this noise, can impact an applicant’s decision on where to apply to business school.

At BusinessBecause, we conducted our own survey of 150 business school applicants between August and September 2018.

We asked our survey respondents: On a scale of one-to-10 (one: not at all; six or above: a significant amount; 10: the most) how far do wider political issues in Europe impact your business school application?

Over half...

licants surveyed (81/150) said geopolitical issues—like Brexit and terrorism in Europe—had a significant impact (choosing six or above) on their choice of business school.


The results show an upward trend in terms of the impact of geopolitical factors on business school decisions. Only 3% of survey respondents (five people) said geopolitical factors had no impact at all on their business school application.

We also asked applicants questions relating to specific countries and events.

45% of survey respondents said Brexit made the UK less attractive as a study destination. This backs up the findings of a survey conducted by GMAC in 2017, in which 45% of over 1,000 prospective students said Brexit made them less likely to study in the UK.

Applicants were asked about the concerns they had about studying at a business school in the UK. Cost was the biggest concern. 45% of respondents said Brexit was a concern; 15% were concerned by the threat of terrorism.

france impact

Applicants were also asked about concerns they had about studying at a business school in France. Language was the biggest concern—applicants are concerned whether not speaking French would be an issue for them.

Language was followed by cost and concerns about the value of degrees from French business schools. 25% of respondents were concerned by the threat of terrorism in France.


Honing in on the impact of terrorism, we asked our survey respondents: Would you think twice about studying in a city after a terror attack?

The result was a tight one. 51% yes; 49% No.

This suggests a general appreciation that terrorism can occur anywhere at any time; it’s not reserved for one country in particular. And many applicants come from countries where acts of terrorism are commonplace.

Still, terror attacks can have an effect on an applicant’s choice of business school.

The respondents to the BusinessBecause survey were interested in applying to business schools in Europe. They were 67% male; 33% female. The majority of respondents were from Asia (62%), followed by Africa (15%), North America (11%), and Europe itself (11%).

75% were considering MBA degrees. 13% were considering master’s in management degrees and 11% master’s in finance. 14% were considering an EMBA or another executive program.

In the course of our research, we also spoke to business school applicants and admissions consultants to get their views. Here’s what they said:



This video was presented to an audience at the Graduate Management Admission Council's (GMAC) European Conference in November 2018.

The challenge business schools face is one of perception.

Carrington Crisp, the higher education market research firm, surveyed 1,500 business school applicants in their Business of Branding report and found that ‘a country’s reputation is the most or second-most important factor for prospective students when choosing where to study.’

‘A student’s perception of a country,’ the report concluded, ‘can have a massive effect on the decision to study.’

The business school brand is key. If Massachusetts declared independence from the United States tomorrow, people would still want to go to Harvard.

Business schools in Europe need to ensure their brands stand out above the geopolitical context they’re operating in to appeal to prospective students.

I presented these findings to an audience at the Graduate Management Admission Council’s European Conference in Berlin in November 2018 within the presentation:

‘Brexit, Politics & Instability in Europe: How You Can Use Content Marketing to Combat Your Admissions Challenges and Achieve Your Goals’

Survey respondents were also asked: ‘When reading online, which stories interest you the most about business schools?’ Personal stories of students and alumni were the most popular.

83% of applicants surveyed said they’d be more likely to ask for more information about a business school after reading a positive article online.