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UK Visa Dependent Ban Fuels Fears Of Decline In B-School Enrollments

A new business school survey reveals declining enrollment numbers and concerns over new dependent visa UK rules

Wed Nov 22 2023

A new study has highlighted a decrease in business school enrollments from students in the UK and abroad and revealed concerns over the impact of new dependent visa UK rules. 

The Chartered Association of Business Schools (ABS) survey was undertaken by 51 deans at Chartered ABS member business schools.

As many as 39% of survey respondents stated that enrollments to business schools in the 2023/24 academic year were lower than in the previous year. That's 10% higher than the 29% of deans who said that enrollment numbers had increased. Meanwhile 32% said that enrollments had remained the same. 

Concerns over new visa rules that ban international MBA and master’s students from bringing dependents to the UK were among some of the explanations cited for the decline in enrollment numbers.

When specifically comparing students from the EU with those from outside the EU, 69% of respondents stated that there were no changes to enrollments from EU students, with 23% reporting decreased enrollment figures from this same demographic.

A further 23% of deans said that there was no change in enrollment from non-EU students while 33% witnessed a decline. In total 44% of respondents reported an increase in numbers from this group. 

Some of the main concerns among deans were linked to international recruitment levels: 50% of respondents stated that recruitment was below target, with 31% highlighting a decrease in enrollment.

As many as 100% of the business schools in Scotland that responded to the survey stated that postgraduate enrollments from international students outside the EU had slightly or significantly decreased.

From January 2024, dependent visa UK rules stipulate that international students on taught master’s programs—including business master’s and MBA degrees—will no longer be permitted to bring family members as dependents to the UK.

A huge 93% of survey respondents expressed concerns over the detrimental impact of this new ruling on postgraduate numbers.

Decreasing numbers of international students has far-reaching implications for business schools. A vast majority of business school deans (92%) acknowledged that their institution relies to some degree on the fees generated from international students to secure its financial sustainability.

In response to the member survey findings, Robert MacIntosh, chair of the Chartered Association of Business Schools, said: “there is genuine cause for concern with declines in UK and non-EU international students. If those trends continue, there would be huge implications for business schools, for their parent universities and more widely for UK plc.”