Business schools will have noticed a survey of 70,000 applicants which shows Canada has topped all other emerging MBA destinations. Australia and Germany saw the second and third biggest increase in intakes, while Canada claimed first-place, even stripping the United States’ spot.
“Canada has a very stable economy, very stable banks and industries that are performing well,” says Shane More, an associate director of recruitment at Sauder School of Business in Vancouver.
Other top-ranking Canadian schools are quick to agree. “The graduate opportunities for people are incredible. Banking held up over the crisis and the oil system is booming,” says Hilary Lemieux, manager of MBA recruitment and admissions at the Richard Ivey School of Business.
However, others aren’t as convinced by the rankings that many schools covet. Canada has an increasing array of top-100 ranked MBA programs, the traditional measure of a school’s global appeal.
But Murali Chandrashekaran, associate dean of professional graduate programs at Sauder, points out that rankings are relative to population. Canada and the U.S are similar when looked at per capita, despite the States boasting the majority of top-ranked MBA programs.
“When we look at top-ranked programs by geography, looking merely at the number of schools can be misleading,” says Murali.
Nonetheless, there is a clear increase. Sauder, Richard Ivey, Rotman School of Management and the Schulich School of Business are all considered to be within the top-100 full-time MBA programs world-wide by the Financial Times. Sauder has seen the biggest rise, a steady increase since 2001, now levelling out at 72nd globally.
Their appeal has coincided with a period of strong economic growth. Canada recovered relatively quickly from the global financial crisis that struck in 2008, while European schools continue to cite difficulty. While not as strong as emerging economies, Canada’s GDP grew by an annualized 3 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2013.
“Canada has gained a really strong reputation for stability and for pragmatic advice that we didn’t have before, and that’s been a huge draw for companies coming to Canada,” says Shavone Hayes, who studied at the University of Toronto, Rotman’s base.
Prosperity is a result of growth and companies which are growing are able to bring on staff to expand, says Ian Christie, director of gradaute career services at Sauder. “From a scale perspective, certainly, prosperity and growth equals more opportunity,” he says.
The majority of MBA candidates now choose their study destination based on where they can see themselves working, up 10 per cent since 2011. MBA candidates are also considering a far greater range of locations.
Canada and Australia are more popular than ever before. In 2013, 23 per cent of respondents to a QS survey planned to study in Canada. According to these figures, the country is now the third-highest MBA destination, below the U.S and UK. In 2009, just 8 per cent of survey respondents planned to study MBAs in Canada.
As many as 80 per cent of international students that complete a one-year MBA at the University of New Brunswick do not leave Canada once completing their studies, according to Sarah Craig, the school’s recruitment coordinator.
Part of that appeal may be more relaxed visa laws. The Canadian government guarantees international students of two-year programs a three year work permit, says Sheldon Dookeran, assistant director of Rotman’s full-time MBA.
“Most international students and maybe even Canadians attend Rotman because they’re interested in working and living in Toronto,” he says. “The city you chose to do your MBA in is where you will build the strongest network.”
A majority of Sauder's international students choose to stay in Canada after graduation, says Laura Rojo, director of recruitment and admissions of the school's graduate programs.
“Canada’s progressive immigration policy facilitates this process and Canadian firms benefit from this international talent pool that is highly trained, familiarized with the Canadian market and with a strong experience in a variety of global markets,” she says, before adding that some of their international graduates pursue careers in other markets too.
The immigration rules are much more relaxed than in the U.S or UK, agrees Shane. “Upon graduation, you can apply to any job in Canada and automatically get a work visa for up to three years,” he says. “It’s important to consider the next step. And there is a clearer next step for you in Canada.”
Schools are also placing increased importance on the diversity of their classes. The global prominence of Canadian schools can be seen by the even distribution of MBA candidates who highlighted the country as a preference.
This ranges from nearly 13 per cent in Western Europe to more than 30 per cent in Latin America. Laura points out that Sauder is ranked highly on all aspects related to the international footprint of the program, including international mobility and international course experience.
MBAs with an interest in Canada are certainly reaping the benefits. According to the Graduate Management Admissions Council, business school alumni working in senior-level Canadian positions net more than $110,000 per year.
That figure is significantly higher than what MBAs earn in other European countries such as France and Italy, according to GMAC.
A 2014 survey of over 4,000 top MBA employers reveals that a bevy of Canadian business schools are among the most preferred in the North American region by recruiters.
Queen's School of Business, HEC Montreal, Richard Ivey, McGill University and the Schulich School of Business all broke into the top-20. Rotman was ranked eighth, seeing off a raft of highly-regarded U.S programs.
It is not just traditional MBA jobs on offer. Economic prosperity has created a strong entrepreneurial community in the country’s big cities, says Shane.
Niki from Rotman says that there are "significant opportunities" in areas like technology and energy, which provide MBAs with challenging and rewarding work.
Sheldon also points out that Toronto is a hot-bed for tech start-ups. “It is a place where it’s easy to get things done, to do business and to launch a start-up. And especially for tech start-ups,” he says.
“We also have an incubator in the program, the Creative Destruction Lab, a place where students can get involved in start-ups and get help with launching them. There is a lot of opportunity here.”