By The Numbers: How Global Is Your MBA Experience?


MBA candidates are always looking for an advantage. That’s what makes them so different from peers they leave behind. They are early adopters and forward thinkers. That’s why he apply to business school. It is a destination for kindred spirits looking to shape the future.

And the future is global commerce. Whether they seek a corner office or social change, many students head overseas to get a leg up. To them, business school is more than formulating strategy and valuating companies. Instead, it is a way to prepare for the real challenge: Living and managing outside their home countries.


Traditionally, cosmopolitan students have flocked to INSEAD, IMD, and the London Business School. Such European stalwarts have built their brands around cultural immersion and far-flung networks. As the past decade has shown, MBA programs are competing fiercely to build a more international cohort. And recent winners and losers in global recruiting may surprise some.

Take the Yale School of Management, considered America’s global MBA program – and for good reason. In just 10 years, the school has nearly doubled its percentage of international MBA students to 48%. Or, consider Columbia Business School and New York University (Stern), meccas for finance where over half of faculty now hail from overseas. Would you believe that half (or more) of the board sets at Wharton, Duke University (Fuqua), and MIT (Sloan) are held by non-American citizens?

Those were just a few of Poets&Quants’ findings in its analysis of the increasingly global nature of business schools. Earlier, P&Q formulated an international ranking based on five data points from the 2016 Financial Times Global MBA rankings. Now, it’s time to look at historical trends. To do this, P&Q sampled data from three rankings: 2016, 2011, and 2006, including only those schools that made two of those three rankings. As before, P&Q included the following five categories:

International Students: This measures citizenship – “the percentage [of students] whose citizenship differs from the country in which they study.”

International Faculty: This is the flip side of international students – “the percentage of [faculty] whose citizenship differs from their country of origin.”

International Board: The third and final assessment of citizenship: This covers “the percentage of the board whose citizenship differs from the country in which the business school is based.”

International Mobility: Unlike the previous three categories, which rely on percentages, this is a ranking based on a mix of data gathered by the Financial Times “on whether alumni worked in different countries pre-MBA, on graduation and three years after graduation.”

International Course Experience: Again, this is a ranking “calculated according to whether the most recent graduating MBA class completed exchanges, research projects, student tours and company internships in countries other than where the school is based.”


To no surprise, some of the highest concentrations of international MBA students are found at IMD (100%), Oxford (96%), INSEAD (95%), and ESADE (95%). Over the past decade, the UK’s Lancaster University has also emerged as a magnet for overseas students, growing that population from 75% to 98%. As part of this global focus, Lancaster has established programs in India, Ghana, Malaysia, and Pakistan. Despite growing in scale, the school has maintained a focus in quality. In just three years, the program has jumped 42 spots in the Financial Times rankings to finish 35th, driven by growth in starting salaries. That said, the school enrolled just 42 students (from 22 nationalities) in its 2016 Class, giving it only a toeprint on the global business stage.

While American MBA programs ranked near the bottom of nearly every international category compiled by the Financial Times, there is one area where they dominate: International student growth, likely due to the saturation of the American marketplace, which has seen the number of American GMAT test-takers decline by over 30% — all while the percentage of international applicants to American b-schools hovers near 60% of all applicants according to GMAC. In terms of percentage, nine of the ten programs with the fastest-growing overseas student populations are based in United States. That growth is spearheaded by Babson College, long known as an entrepreneurship hub, which has experienced a 27% increase in international students since 2011, going from 46% to 67%. They are followed by the University of California-Irvine (+23%) and the University of Notre Dame (+19%) over that same period.

That’s not to say every American program fares well in this area. The University of Maryland (Smith) has suffered a 9% loss in international students, with Stanford GSB underwent a 5% slide. Although Wharton has attracted the highest number of women in any business school, their percentage of international students has fallen by 10% over the past decade. And the number is even worse at Western Ontario’s Ivey, ranked as the top international program overall by Bloomberg Businessweek, where the international population has fallen by 34% in ten years.

(Go to next page to see Student Population growth and declines over the past decade)

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