Europe Drawing Bigger Share of MBA Pipeline

by John A. Byrne on

European business schools are attracting a steadily increasing share of the global market of prospective MBA students, according to a new study published today (Feb. 2) by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). The report confirms what the Financial Times recently called the “diminishing dominance” of U.S. business schools.

GMAC researchers also found that European citizens planning to attend business school are showing greater interest in attending institutions located within Europe than they did five years ago. Europeans also are taking the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) at a growing rate, and account for a rising percentage of the worldwide GMAT testing pool.

“We’re seeing clear signs that more and more people view Europe as an excellent place to study business,” said Julia Tyler, GMAC’s London-based executive vice president of member services and school marketing, in a statement. “Europe is home to an expanding base of high-quality management education programs—and the world is taking notice.”

Not that many years ago, for example, two of the biggest brands in education, Oxford University and the University of Cambridge, did not have MBA programs. Oxford’s Said Business School debuted in 1996, while the Queen opened Cambridge’s Judge Business School in the same year. In the Financial Time’s inaugural ranking in 1999, 20 of the top 25 schools were based in the U.S. This year, only 11 of the top 25 business schools are located in the U.S. In the top ten alone, there are now schools from England (No. 1 London Business School), France (No. 4 INSEAD), Spain (No. 8 IE Business School and No. 9 IESE Business School) and Hong Kong (No. 6 Hong Kong University of Science and Technology). Britain now claims 8 of the top 50 schools in the Financial Times’ new global ranking.

“It’s not just the number of schools,” says Dave Wilson, CEO of GMAC, in an interview with Poets&Quants. “It’s the quality. You are starting to see some serious competitors to what was historically a U.S. dominated market. These international schools are becoming very serious competitors and they are doing it very quickly. I heard a comment at a roundtable discussion recently where a U.S. dean said, ‘We’ve been doing this for 100 years.’ And one of the European deans said, ‘I don’t think it will take us that long to get it right.'”

Wilson predicts the trend will continue, particularly as business schools in India and in China gain greater recognition. “Five or ten years from now,” he says, “I think you may see some interesting new horses in the race. You are always going to have the elite ones from around the world. They have the brand recognition and the financial resources. But just as the Indian School of Business came out of nowhere, you’ll see others. It will take them awhile to get their faculty set. That is the region of the world that is growing rapidly so they the Asian schools may start taking a much more substantial role in business education and that may shape the way curriculums develop.”

Among the key trends highlighted in GMAC report:

•    Business schools in Europe attracted 11 percent of all GMAT score reports sent in testing year 2010 (July 1, 2009-June 30, 2010), up from a 7.5 percent share in 2006. Put another way, European institutions received 85,262 score reports from people who took the GMAT exam in 2010, up nearly 90 percent from the 45,079 score reports test takers sent to European institutions in 2006.
•    The United Kingdom drew more GMAT score reports from around the world than any other country in Europe in 2010, just as it did in 2006. But the U.K.’s overall share of Europe-bound GMAT score reports declined from 43 percent to 41 percent even as the country attracted a growing percentage of scores sent by European citizens.
•    European citizens sent 42 percent more GMAT score reports to schools around the world in 2010 than in 2006—and they directed proportionately fewer of those reports to schools in the United States, the world’s top destination for GMAT scores. The top countries in Europe to which Europeans sent GMAT score reports in 2010 were the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands and Spain.
•    India and China together accounted for more than a third of all GMAT score reports sent to European institutions in 2010. The two Asian nations each sent more score reports to European business schools than citizens of any individual European country.
•    German citizens sent 6,075 GMAT score reports to European institutions in 2010, the most among European citizenship groups.
•    European citizens took the GMAT exam a combined 24,324 times in 2010, an increase of 42 percent compared with the 17,189 exams they took in 2006. Worldwide, GMAT testing volume rose 29 percent over the same period, to 263,979.

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