How Brexit And Trump Are Damaging The World's Most Popular MBA Markets

Prospective students are less likely to consider US and UK following political instability

Brexit and Donald Trump are damaging the reputation of the world’s most popular business education markets. 

A new study by CarringtonCrisp revealed that 40% and 28% of students in the US and the UK respectively are less likely to consider studying in the two countries following the election of Trump and Britain’s referendum to leave the EU.

The study, which polled 1,500 students representing 85 nationalities, is the latest indication that challenging political climates are harming business schools, which rely heavily on foreign students to fill and enrich their programs. 

The Graduate Management Admission Council in September found that only 32% of US business masters degrees grew their international application volumes this year, down from 49% in 2016 and the third year of falls on the trot. GMAC said a “disruptive political climate is likely contributing to the downward trend in application volumes”. 

More than 50% of the CarringtonCrisp respondents said a country’s reputation was the most or second-most important factor in choosing where to study. The cost of education in a country was the most or second-most important factor for 40% of respondents. 

The US and the UK were the most popular study destinations, with 67% and 44% of respondents indicating they may study there. The next most popular countries were Canada (39%) and Australia (38%) — both of which have benefited from a perception that they are more open to international talent, owing to more progressive visa policies. A further seven countries were selected by more than 15% of respondents as possible study destinations, including China, France, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore and Switzerland.

CarringtonCrisp founder Andrew Crisp said: “Although Brexit was perceived as a negative, in the short term British schools have benefitted from the weakness of the pound. In the USA, the negative perceptions generated at the time of the election campaign have been reinforced by travel bans and proposed changes to work visas.”

The ability to obtain study and work visas is often the chief concern for prospective international business school students. Despite the tightening of UK visa policy over the last few years, CarringtonCrisp respondents suggested that the UK was among the easiest of countries to get visas in. The UK was followed by Germany, Australia and China, with the US perceived as the most difficult country to get a visa in.

But the US was perceived as having the strongest and most dynamic economy, with China, Germany and the UK closely behind and Australia further back. Perhaps not surprisingly, Australia was rated the most highly for a sense of adventure and an attractive lifestyle.

Germany scored well across most of the categories. German business schools are a relatively new phenomenon and although several have quickly gained strong reputations, such as ESMT Berlin, the volume of top schools overall is still low compared with other countries.

Meanwhile, China is perceived as one of the cheapest countries to study in and scored well on the sense of adventure and strength of economy metrics. However, it was perceived as the weakest for offering an attractive lifestyle and was the least likely to be recommended by a friend as a location for attending business school.

Andrew said: “A student’s perception of a country can have a massive effect on the decision to study there and business schools need to be aware of these perceptions. 

“If the perceptions are negative, there are steps to take, such as lobbying collectively for changes to visa regulations, for example. 

“If the perceptions are positive, schools can play up these [by] emphasising them in their own marketing, such as communicating the lifestyle, economic or sporting aspects of where they are based.”

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