Global Interest In U.S. B-Schools Declining

While U.S. business schools remain the top global study destination for prospective students around the world, rival schools are attracting increasing interest from would-be MBAs and other business students, a new story shows. The Graduate Management Admission Council said today (April 7) that two-thirds or 66% of prospective students want to get their business degrees in the U.S., a decline from 73% of candidates in 2010.

The downturn is a likely consequence of greater number of local schools that have cropped up, along with significantly improved offerings outside the U.S. and increased interest in management education overall. Yet, globally, more than half of prospective students (52%) seek to study outside their country of citizenship, up from 40 percent in 2010. GMAC said the growth is seen mostly among Asia-Pacific and Middle Eastern citizens. These findings are based on the responses of nearly 12,000 potential graduate business students. These students, who registered on GMAC’s website in 2014, were part of a random sample collected monthly.

The study found that the top 10 preferred study destinations after the U.S. are the United Kingdom (6%), Canada (5%), France (3%), India (3%), Hong Kong (2%), Germany (2%), Singapore (2%), Netherlands (2%), and Australia (1%).In the five-year period from 2010 to 2014, Hong Kong (+2.4% points), Canada (+1.0% points), and Germany (+1.0% points) showed the largest increases. Schools in those countries were followed by the Netherlands (+0.7% points), France (+0.7% points), United Kingdom (+0.6% points) and Australia (+0.6% points).

Although global interest in the United States as a study destination has declined, the GMAC study found that the downturn is not universal. Prospective students in Latin America (53% in 2010 vs. 60% in 2014), Central and South Asia (46% vs. 52%), Middle East and Africa (32% vs. 38%), and Canada (13% vs. 15%) are more likely to prefer the U.S. in 2014 compared with 2010. The greatest decrease in interest for U.S. schools occurred among prospective students in Asia-Pacific (58% in 2010 vs. 52% in 2014), Europe (25% to 24%), and among residents of the United States (97% to 96%). In the United States and Asia-Pacific,women and prospective students younger than 24 are most likely to consider studying abroad, according to GMAC.


The study, based on GMAC’s annual Prospective Student Survey, also asked respondents to select the top reasons (out of a list of 17 options) what they consider most important for choosing their preferred study destination. In the case of candidates who plan to study abroad, their reasons tend to revolve around four general themes—a desire for an international career, the welcoming nature of the destination, English language development, and word-of-mouth recommendation.

GMAC said the following study destinations received the top rankings in each of the themes:

  • International career: Spain, Italy, France, United States, and Netherlands.
  • Welcoming destination: Canada, Israel, Singapore, Australia, and Hong Kong.
  • English language: Netherlands, Canada, United Kingdom,

    India, and United States.

  • Word-of-mouth recommendation: Netherlands, Hong

    Kong, China, Switzerland, and Australia.

Overall, full-time, two-year MBA programs remain the most popular MBAs, preferred by 27% of the respondents, but one-year programs are highly popular as well, with 27% preferring these shorter, accelerated MBAs (see below table).

Top Preferred Program Type, by Programs Considered

Source: 2015 GMAC Prospective Student Survey

Source: 2015 GMAC Prospective Student Survey

As you might expect, preferences varied greatly depending on where the respondent resided. In Asia Pacific, the most popular degree programs are a master of finance. In Africa, Canada and Western Europe, it’s the one-year MBA (see table below). Two-year residential MBA programs are the most preferred in the U.S., Middle East, Latin America, and Central and South Asia.

Preferred Program Types, by Region of Residence

Source: 2015 GMAC Prospective Student Survey

Source: 2015 GMAC Prospective Student Survey

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