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Here’s Why Applications To European Business Schools Are Booming

New research shows European business schools are gaining in popularity, while MBA applications to the US continue to drop

Thu Apr 25 2019

Graduate management education has long been a vehicle for international mobility and opportunity.

While the US remains the most popular MBA destination for applicants, the last decade has seen an accelerating decline in international applications to US business schools. Applications to European business schools meanwhile, have been booming.

According to new research from the Graduate Management Admission Council’s (GMAC) Prospective Students Survey 2019, international candidate preference for Western Europe grew from 31% in 2016 to 40% in 2018.

Here are some of the reasons European business schools have become more popular:

Declining applications to the US

The US’ loss is Europe’s gain. The drop in MBA applications to US business schools is not new. Among candidates who plan to apply internationally, preference for the United States as their study destination has been dropping for a decade.

The last two years, however, show a steep decline. After declining from 54% to 48% between 2009 and 2016, preference for the United States declined to 40% in 2018.

The increasing interest in European schools may come off the back of concerns about the political climate in the US, and perceived difficulties in obtaining post-study work visas in the US.

Read: Why Are Fewer People Applying To MBA Programs In The US?


©GBlakeley via iStock

Shorter, more affordable programs

The shift can also be explained, in part, by the popularity of one-year MBA programs typically offered in Europe. According to GMAC, in 2018, 47% of candidates were considering full-time one-year MBA programs compared to 45% of candidates considering full-time two year programs.

This is particularly true among citizens of Canada and countries in Africa, Western and Eastern Europe, and East and Southeast Asia. The high cost, together with the opportunity cost of MBA programs, is one factor that makes one-year programs more attractive.

Cost is the biggest source of reluctance when candidates are deciding whether or not to pursue graduate management education. And while some tuition fees per year may be higher in Europe, overall tuition fees can be lower for shorter programs. Other areas of reservation include economic uncertainty and uncertainty around job prospects, and the need to delay attractive job opportunities.

GMAC’s report also showed the rise of alternatives to the traditional two-year, full-time MBA popular in the US. Nearly half of candidates now consider both MBA and business master’s programs, and one-in-five only consider business master’s programs. Masters in Finance are the most considered business master’s programs (24% of candidates), followed by Masters in Data Analytics (19%).

Around 12% of candidates consider an online MBA. Although this percentage has remained relatively stable over a 10-year period, more schools are investing in online learning, whether it’s blended learning or 100%-online, to reach new students. Birmingham Business School’s Online MBA became the first fully-online MBA to be accredited by AMBA in 2016.

Read: How Is Brexit Affecting UK Business Schools?


©AdrianHancu via iStock

The popularity of specific schools

While candidates preferring professional MBA programs are more likely to first consider the regional location, applicants preferring full-time MBA and executive MBA programs are more likely to first consider the specific schools they want to attend.

There are a number of highly-ranked European business schools like INSEAD, London Business School, and HEC Paris to choose from.

Elsewhere, schools like Cranfield School of Management in the UK offer a host of MBA programs to suit multiple candidates’ needs, including a full-time MBA, Executive MBA, and specialized MBAs for professionals in the defense and energy industries.

Previous GMAC research shows fears around the impact of Brexit on MBA applications have not come to fruition. In fact, the percentage of applicants who apply to the UK as their first choice has increased.

Diverse cohorts

European business schools have a reputation for diverse student cohorts. Classes in many European business schools are known for their much higher proportion of international students. In INSEAD’s 2018 MBA cohort for example, 94 nationalities are represented.

This becomes an attractive proposition when you consider the global nature of business and the opportunities to form international networks. European business schools may also offer the opportunity to learn a new language.

With a number of prestigious and highly ranked European business schools offering a range of program types, we can expect European schools to continue to gain ground.

Student Reviews

Birmingham Business School - University of Birmingham




On Campus

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The beautiful campus and teaching expertise.

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Exceptional Support for international Students

Exceptional Support for International Students As an international student, my experience at the University of Birmingham has been nothing short of extraordinary, thanks to the outstanding support provided for international students. I would like to share my thoughts and experiences regarding the exceptional support I've received during my time here. From the moment I arrived on campus, it was evident that UoB prioritizes the well-being and success of its international students. Here are some key aspects of the support I've received: 1. Orientation Programs: The university's comprehensive orientation programs helped me acclimate to campus life, navigate administrative processes, and understand the academic system. I never felt lost or overwhelmed, thanks to the informative sessions and friendly staff. 2. Academic Advising: The academic advisors for international students are incredibly knowledgeable and approachable. They assisted me in creating a personalized academic plan, selecting courses, and understanding degree requirements. Their guidance ensured that I stayed on the right track academically. 3. Language Support: UoB offers exceptional language support services, including English language courses and conversation partners. These resources were invaluable in improving my language skills and building confidence in my communication abilities. 4. Cultural Integration: The university fosters a diverse and inclusive environment, making it easy for international students to feel like part of the community. There are numerous cultural clubs, events, and workshops that allow us to connect with fellow students and celebrate our diverse backgrounds. 5. Mental Health and Counseling Services: Recognizing the challenges that international students may face, the university provides excellent mental health and counseling services. It's comforting to know that support is available when needed, and these services are respectful of cultural differences. 6. Career Services: UoB offers exceptional career services tailored to international students. From resume workshops to job fairs, they've been instrumental in helping me prepare for my career post-graduation. The university's strong network of alumni has also been a valuable resource. 7. Visa and Immigration Assistance: Navigating the complexities of visa and immigration regulations can be daunting, but the university's dedicated staff provided guidance and assistance throughout the process. Their expertise made the experience seamless. 8. Housing Support: Securing suitable housing can be a challenge for international students, but the university offers assistance in finding on-campus housing options with flexible payments. This support ensured that I had a safe and comfortable place to live. 9. Financial Aid and Scholarships: UoB offers various scholarships and financial aid options for international students. Their commitment to making education accessible is commendable, they also provide financial support for graduation through the guild of students.




On Campus

student experience

I highly recommend the University of Birmingham. I think the school environment is very friendly to international students. I was able to get guidance and help from students in the school. I was also able to get support and guidance from the professional team on my career path. I would recommend the University of Birmingham to first-time international students and Masters students.




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There is always somebody to help!

The university respects the culture and background of their highly diverse student. It carters to everybody's need and puts its student first. It tries to the make the student feel at home and helps them deal with the university life.




On Campus


I love studying Pharmacy at Birmingham and would absolutely recommend it, especially because of the variety in every aspect of the course. Firstly, the variety of people you meet from all areas around the country, and even countless others from outside the country. Each person has a different background and experiences creating a melting pot of personalities to interact with. Next, the lessons - there are numerous types of lessons we encounter on a weekly basis from lectures to dissections to a computer workshops. Additionally, specific to medical degrees, I have 7 placements annually in hospital, community, and GP pharmacies. The only lack of variety in the pharmacy course is the classrooms since there are limited number we can use and the medical school is separate from the main campus. The only part I don't enjoy about pharmacy is the distances and unreliability of public transport in Birmingham. Living in the vale, the university is a long 25-minute walk away and my closest shop is over 10-20 minutes to walk. Although there are closer accommodations, I really love my flat with its modern decor, large room, and social aspect of the shared kitchen.




On Campus

Experience at University of Birmingham

University of Birmingham has been an outstanding university. They have provided complete support during COVID-19. The university is incredible when accessing support with mental health. I currently study criminology at the university of Birmingham. The course has been brilliant, with constant support from lectures and tutors to ensure that you achieve the best grade possible. I could not recommend University of Birmingham more!




On Campus


Great campus for studying with kind and professional staff and the campus is very well connected to the city center. There were so many people who wanted to enroll in the course that they had to queue for a new course for six months in advance. The classes were always crowded, but the professors never let anyone through. I love this uni




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A very welcoming uni

This university is regarded as one of the best in the world. They provide a welcoming environment that enhances the lives of the students because each one of them has a sense of community and a desire to study.