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Applications Are Up As Europe’s Business Schools Begin To Profit From Brexit

Brexit presents an opportunity for European MBA programs outside the UK

Thu Nov 17 2016

Even before June’s EU Referendum result, business schools in the UK branded Brexit a disaster. But for European business schools outside the UK, it’s an opportunity to take advantage of.

At Belgium’s Antwerp Management School, EMBA application numbers are already up.

“In India and China, interest has exploded in the last few months,” says Peter Rafferty, the EMBA’s director. “Countries and cultures which previously would have looked first at the UK, are now looking at mainland Europe.”

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), applications for full-time MBA programs fell in 53% of US business schools this year. But interest in European MBA programs remains significant.

Spain’s IESE Business School expanded its incoming MBA class by 22% this year in order to deal with the increased demand.

With Brexit, UK business schools risk losing out on new students coming to the UK. At the same time, they could face an exodus of British students leaving to join mainland European schools.

In the past decade, the proportion of British students enrolled in UK-based MBAs has dropped by almost 10%, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency. Peter Daly, master in management director at EDHEC Business School in France, expects this trend to continue.

“We’ll see more and more MBA students coming from the UK to France,” he says. “Brexit is an opportunity to attract these students.”

At HEC Paris, the full effects of Brexit on application numbers won’t be seen until the next cohort starts in January next year. But François Collin, the school’s associate dean for international affairs, expects consequences.

“If we were a UK business school, we would be very concerned,” he says. “The main issue is related to job placements and the UK economy. If institutions leave London, UK business schools will become less attractive, and European schools more attractive, to international students and faculty.”

Brexit is a blow to many UK-based faculty, with business schools expected to lose access to EU research funding. Deans at business schools in Europe are actively headhunting faculty in the UK.

HEC Paris just has opened a new representative office in Berlin. The school has an office in London too, but the need to connect with the German corporate world and economy is becoming increasingly important.

Until Brexit, the Netherlands’ Nyenrode Business Universiteit offered its full-time MBAs a series of experiential learning trips to European capitals, including London. Now, due to Brexit’s potential impact on financial markets, students study in Paris instead.

Dennis Vink, Nyenrode’s MBA director, expects to see an increase in applications: “The success of a business school is largely determined by whether the school is located in a stable and prosperous economic region,” he says. “Brexit has without a doubt a negative consequence on the economy of the UK.”

Slowly, the mainland European business school community is becoming more integrated. And UK business schools are understandably concerned.

UCL School of Management was only officially established in its current form in August 2015. It’s located in Canary Wharf, right at the heart of London’s financial district. While the school has seen an increase in applications since Brexit, European student numbers have dropped.

“We are worried that Brexit will make it more difficult for us to attract top European talent and students,” admits the school’s founding director, Bert De Reyck. “[The decrease] could be a sign of things to come.”