Business schools in Canada, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region are flying high with international candidates flocking to their graduate programs. That's as business schools in the US see their popularity among international candidates take a hit.
According to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s (GMAC) Application Trends Survey Report 2019, international applications are up for 56% of graduate programs at business schools in Europe.
Overall, international applications to European schools went up by 0.9% between 2018 and 2019 (see overall change graph below.)
That’s in comparison to US programs, where international applications dropped by 13.7%.
Decline in the US has been music to Canadian ears too. This year, 50% of responding Canadian programs reported international application growth. 26% of those said that international applications were up significantly. Overall, Canadian schools saw international applications increase by 8.6% between 2018 and 2019.
Why Europe and Canada are so popular
The percentage of international business school candidates that planned to apply to a European program increased from 63% in 2017 to 69% in the first half of 2019. The percentage that planned to apply to a Canadian program increased from 28% to 30% in the same time period.
70% of candidates who would choose Europe as their preferred study destination said the reputation of the educational system was a top reason. Improved chances of an international career was a top reason for 65% of candidates. It's no surprise that four of the top 10 most popular countries for business school candidates in 2019 are in Europe.
In Canada, the ease of obtaining a work permit was a top reason for 49% of candidates who would choose the country as their preferred study destination. The ease of obtaining a student visa was a top reason for 29% of candidates.
39% of candidates said the availability of financial aid was a top reason, and 44% safety and physical security. Canada ranked as the third most popular country for business school candidates this year, in our Top Countries for Business School Candidates 2019 report.
The state of business schools in Europe
The vast majority of applications to European programs came from international applicants—89% on average this year. 59% came from non-European citizens.
Among programs that responded to this year’s and last year’s survey, total applications were up by 1%—domestic by 1.3% and international applications by 0.9%.
21% of European programs received a more qualified applicant pool, and 53% grew their class size this year.
Nearly two-in-three (63%) full-time, one-year MBA programs in Europe reported total application growth this year. Of these programs, 88% of the applicant pool was international, and 60% of programs grew their international application volume this year.
European Executive MBA (EMBA) programs also mostly saw application growth this year (56% of programs). The applicant pool for these programs was on average 47% international and 53% domestic. 50% of EMBA programs grew their international applications, while 44% grew their domestic applications.
Most programs (52% of master in management and 53% of master of finance) reported a drop in overall applications, however.
Optimism in the UK despite Brexit
In the UK, programs are holding up relatively well against the backdrop of Brexit.
Three-in-four UK MBA programs reported that their international application volumes either grew (64%) or were stable (11%) compared with last year. Only 25% of programs received fewer international applications than last year, and most were only slightly down (18%).
UK business master’s programs had an applicant pool which was, on average, 95% international this year. 59% of programs saw international application growth, with 26% of them reporting a significant increase in international applications.
From a survey of responses from late last year of non-UK citizens who sent a GMAT score to a UK business school program, 54% said Brexit has no impact on their decision to study in the United Kingdom, up from 46% two years earlier.
In a further piece of good news, last month the UK Government relaunched the country's two-year student work visa for international students.
The rise of the East
The rise of the Chinese economy, and the opportunities in the East, mean that it is an attractive place for business school candidates. None more so than domestic students.
Among responding Asia-Pacific programs, 48% reported a growth in domestic applications, with 20% seeing a stable application volume from domestic candidates. 37% said they saw a growth in international application volumes, with 32% seeing stable international applications.
90% of applicants came from the Asia-Pacific region.
Among the 32 responding Asia-Pacific full-time two-year MBA programs, 63% reported a growth in total application volume. 70% of the applicant pool was domestic, with domestic application volumes growing at 69% of programs.
China was a big beneficiary of the strong domestic showing this year at Asia-Pacific business schools.
Of the 22 programs who responded to the survey, 73% of programs saw domestic application volume growth year-on-year. 41% also saw international application growth.
Total applications were up by 5.2% at Chinese programs that responded to both this year’s and last year’s survey. Domestic applications were up 6.8%, and international applications by 3.9%.
Big-name Chinese schools include CEIBS in Shanghai and Peking University in Beijing, which offers the Beijing International MBA (BiMBA). BiMBA students on can study joint programs between PKU-University College London (UCL) or PKU-Vlerick Business School (in Belgium).
50% of Indian programs, of the 28 who responded, reported application volume growth. The majority of applicants were domestic (95%). This year, 46% of programs grew their domestic application volume, 25% said their volume stayed the same, and only 29% reported domestic declines.