FILLING THE VACUUM
GMAC’s survey of 760 prospective students on the appeal of the U.S. for the pursuit of a business degree began the day after the election, Nov. 9, and continued through the end of the year. It shows a “pretty clear picture,” Chowfla says, of the challenges U.S. B-schools may face in future cycles if international business talent trains their sights elsewhere.
But if students eschew the U.S. and the UK, where might they go?
“Various options now in continental Europe, in particular Germany, now are seeing renewed interest,” Chowfla says. “Germany is an interesting case. For a number of years it has been not only offering business degrees in English, but also is coupling that with a very welcoming visa process. Germany has a declining population and is very hungry for qualified talent. GMAT score sending to Germany has more than doubled over the last five years.
“So while traditional graduate management education destinations like the U.S. and the U.K. may be restricting immigration of highly qualified individuals, other countries like Germany and Japan are encouraging their higher-education institutions to start offering business programs in English, attracting candidates in there and hoping that some of them will stay and integrate into some of the local societies.”
Where else? “We’re inclined to think that Asian schools in places like Singapore and Hong Kong, which already have highly rated schools, will benefit,” Chowfla says, adding that France’s INSEAD and HEC Paris also might benefit from droves of highly talented individuals looking for new study destinations.
INTENT VERSUS REALITY
There’s one big caveat to all the hand-wringing over a perceived mobility shift for international students. GMAC’s survey measures the intent of students, Chowfla says, which may not match their eventual actions.
“All this is about intent, and we should qualify that there generally is a gap between intent and action,” he says. “When you’re talking about numbers, no, we do not expect a reduction of 40% in applications. I’d like to make that point very clearly.
“Also, the U.S. election happened in November, when most people were dialed into their application processes, so while people may signal a change of intent, people have already applied or are heavily invested in the application process. So behavior change tends to be more difficult given timing-related issues.
“We’ll really start seeing what’s happening when we start reporting application trends data, which will happen in late March and early summer, typically. We’ll look around the world to see whether applications are up or down and we’ll get a better sense of how this intent actually translated into action and reality.”