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International Students Prefer Europe Over The US For One Year MBA, Says GMAC

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Despite a large number of options available, the MBA remains the most popular choice for management education aspirants and as far as study destinations go, Europe seems to be scoring over the United States for international students.

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s (GMAC) Prospective Students Survey 2019, shifts in candidate study destination preferences are accelerating. Among candidates who plan to apply internationally, preference for the United States as their study destination has declined sharply over the last two years.

  • MBA remains the most popular choice for management education aspirants and as far as study destinations go, Europe seems to be scoring over the United States for international students
  • After declining from 54% to 48% between 2009 and 2016, preference for the United States dropped to 44% in 2017 and 40% in 2018, says GMAC Prospective Students Survey 2019
  • The opposite trend is seen in international candidate preference for Western Europe, growing from 31% in 2016 to 40% in 2018
  • Overall, 79% of the candidates are considering an MBA program and 61% prefer an MBA program.
  • The full-time MBA remains the most popular option, as 65% of candidates overall are considering a full-time MBA program type and 40% say it’s their preferred option.

It displays an acceleration of the long-term, gradual decline seen over the previous eight years. After declining from 54% to 48% between 2009 and 2016, preference for the United States dropped to 44% in 2017 and 40% in 2018.

Meanwhile, the opposite trend is seen in international candidate preference for Western Europe, growing from 31% in 2016 to 40% in 2018.

The findings are based on responses from a total of 9,617 individuals between January and December 2018, as also more than 126,000 individuals surveyed between the years 2009 and 2017.

As for the popularity of the MBA, the Survey notes that overall, 79% of the candidates are considering an MBA program and 61% prefer an MBA program.

The full-time MBA remains the most popular option, as 65% of candidates overall are considering a full-time MBA program type and 40% say it’s their preferred option.

Why is the US falling off the map for international students? Anti-immigration rhetoric in the prevailing political climate coupled with greater uncertainty over obtaining a work visa is one reason. The rising cost of an MBA is another factor. In comparison, Canada is proving to be a better option with the ease of obtaining work permits and student visas, coupled with the availability of financial aid and safety and physical security.

Meanwhile, an article in BusinessBecause says MBA aspirants in East and South East Asia now prefer the United Kingdom over the US as a study destination by a margin of nearly six to one, with 28% indicating their preference for a UK school and only 5% for a program in the US.

Meanwhile, fears of Brexit adversely affecting MBA applications were set to rest. In fact, the percentage of applicants who apply to the UK as their first choice has increased.

Another important factor is the shorter and more affordable programs like the one year MBA in Europe. GMAC says, in 2018, 47% of the aspirants were considering full-time one-year MBA programs compared to 45% going in for full-time two year programs.

In Western Europe, the aspirants chose Spain over the U.S. by more than a six to one margin, with 39% wanting to study in Western Europe and only 6% in the US. Some 25% of prospective students in Central and South Asia say they would prefer to earn their degree in France versus 6% in the US.

Another important factor is the shorter and more affordable programs like the one year MBA in Europe. GMAC says, in 2018, 47% of the aspirants were considering full-time one-year MBA programs compared to 45% going in for full-time two year programs.

Such candidates were mostly from Canada, countries in Africa, Western & 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.

While some tuition fees per year may be higher in Europe, overall tuition fees would be lower for shorter programs. Other factors include economic uncertainty, job prospects and the need to delay attractive job opportunities.

ALSO READ: What Does Brexit Hold for MBA Students & B-Schools?

One more point in favour of European business schools is their 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.

With the increase in the number of alternatives to the traditional two-year, full-time MBA in the US, nearly half of candidates now consider both MBA and business master’s programs. One-in-five only considers 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.

The GMAC survey found that those looking for professional MBA programs were more likely to first consider the regional location, those intending to enrol in full-time MBA and executive MBA programs were more inclined to first consider the specific schools they want to attend. (Image Source: pixabay.com)

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