Applicants To Britain’s B-Schools Plunge

Applications to Britain’s business schools plunged 20% last year as a result of government changes to visa policies that made MBA programs there a less viable option for international students.

That’s the sober conclusion of a survey of 41 U.K. schools released today (July 3) by the Association of MBAs. The finding follows warnings last year that the then proposed government restrictions would make it nearly impossible for graduates from outside Europe to gain post-MBA work visas. Fears that those rules would cut off the pipeline of highly talented applicants from the U.S., China, India, and other countries appear to be realized.  The biggest impact on applications from international students, who make up 90% of the MBA students at U.K. business schools, apparently occurred in India. Sharon Bamford, chief executive of AMBA, attributed the plunge to a “huge amount” of poor press in India over the past 15 months. She said news reports in India had given the impression that Britain’s business school was closing its doors to international students.

The removal of the right to stay and work in the UK for two years after a degree had also hit recruitment, she said. Many students had wanted to remain for “a couple of years as part of their career progression.

The survey found that 62% of UK business schools accredited by AMBA have seen full-time MBA enrollments decrease by an average of 15%.

“Approximately 90% of the students on a full-time MBA in the UK are international, so it is understandable that factors such as the UK economy, immigration and the growth in high quality MBA education in their own countries are starting to have an impact on enrollments to full-time MBAs in the U.K.,” added Bamford in a statement.

Some 191 business schools worldwide have MBA programs accredited by AMBA. The accreditation group said there were a total of 120,000 enrollments in accredited MBA programs across the world, with 25% of these in Europe, 23% in Latin America, 20% in the UK, while enrollments in China were 15% of the total figure, in Russia 5% and in Australasia 3.5%.

In 2011, more than 26,000 students applied to study for an MBA at an accredited UK business school and 8,000 students were enrolled onto a course. These enrollments generated a total of £175 million for U.K. business schools.

The 41 business schools in Britain responding to the survey said they received 26,090 applications last year, accepted 13,484 applicants, and enrolled 8,081 students.

Applications also fell by more than a quarter to part-time MBA courses, where European students, who are not affected by the visa changes, are in the majority. Schools, however, propped up part-time enrollment by accepting a greater proportion of applicants, leading to an increase of 16% in part-time enrollment.

The AMBA said that total applications to all types of MBA programs in the U.K. were down from 30,777 in 2010 to 26,090 in 2011.

The U.K. trend contrasts with that seen in a number of other markets. There was significant rise in MBA enrolments in Latin America (20 per cent) and China (30 per cent) at AMBA accredited schools.


  • Sangram Joshi

    A student’s expectations of a B-school depends on their understanding of what
    constitutes good education for them. However, individual values and priorities
    apart, they all want good teachers, comfortable spaces, and value-for-money
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    In terms of international exchange programmes, none
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    players do have  a good student exchange programme, but faculty exchange
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  • A tweet I saw linking to this story claimed this is ‘great news for applicants to Oxford, LBS and Cambridge’.  To nip this myth in the bud now, whilst a decline in applications has been observed at Cambridge, there has been no discernible drop amongst the demographic we are seeking.  Selection criteria would certainly not be altered based on a drop in applications alone.  Regardless of numbers, we are looking for the right people to fit with the culture and ethos of the programme, who can evidence valuable professional experience and strong academic backgrounds which will allow them to excel in the future.  The 2012 entry batch will be of a similar size and of at least equal quality (on all metrics) to those who have gone before them.