B-School Brain Drain? Another Study Says Yes

Donald Trump may not yet have built his much-ballyhooed wall along the southern United States border, but his election in November 2016 seems to have erected a different kind of barrier: an invisible one that has repulsed international students who might once have considered attending graduate business school in the U.S. That’s a conclusion that is becoming clearer with each new study of the intentions of students in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere, the latest of which has just been published by the Graduate Management Admission Council.

GMAC’s one-page report, titled International Candidate Interest in U.S. Business Schools Stays Below Pre-2016 Election Levels, reveals how monthly surveys of non-U.S. citizen registrants at mba.com “show that international candidate preference for the U.S. as their study destination has stayed below the previous five-year average each month since the election, and has most recently declined for three consecutive months between September and November 2017.” What’s driving the decline? Two main factors, both of which are attributable to the anti-immigration rhetoric and stated political mission of the Trump era: B-school candidate concerns around obtaining a job in the U.S. post-graduation, and safety and security fears.

The findings hew to the conclusions of recent reports and mirror the results of other recent surveys. One of these, the 2017 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange reported on by Poets&Quants in November, found the number of new international enrollees in U.S. universities declining for the first time in 12 years, even as the total number of international students has risen.

Source: GMAC


Pre-election, the five-year average of international candidates preferring to study in the U.S. was 45%. The monthly surveys cited in GMAC’s study show that the preference was at 44% in November 2016, hit a low of 32% in February 2017, recovered through the summer to return to 44%, “but has since declined for three consecutive months,” dropping to 39% in November 2017. Among the 1,992 non-U.S.-citizen candidates surveyed between September and November 2017, 23% had considered applying to a U.S. program but said they now do not plan to apply, reads the report authored by Matt Hazenbush, research communications senior manager.

GMAC says the top reasons given for reconsidering study in the U.S. center around getting a job in-country post-graduation (54%), in addition to concerns about securing a student visa (51%), safety and security fears (47%), the political environment (42%), and racism and discrimination fears (39%).

Moreover, GMAC points out, about half (49%) of the nearly 700 U.S. business school programs that responded to the 2017 Application Trends Survey reported receiving fewer international applications than in the previous year. “Just 31% of programs reported international application increases,” the new report reads, “and 20% reported no significant change.” GMAC intends to study the matter further and have more data prepared for its annual Preliminary Application Trends Survey, slated to launch in February.


  • maas

    Schools like Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT Sloan and Columbia (just to name a few) don’t have this problem. Application numbers have been going up consistently for years, and a lot of it has been fueled by internationals. When the school is good and has the a good standing international brand name, it could only go up!

  • non

    Maybe it’s because MBAs are super expensive and GSB and the like abuses them.

  • somsquared

    Lol what else does GMAC realistically have to do? They write a few questions every once in awhile and get paid to sit on their @$$ while getting funded by bschool candidates who are implicitly forced to take the GMAT for admission to programs. Not to mention, the GMAC execs get hefty bonuses for what might as well be touching themselves since they don’t do anything else.

    I wish I had a job like GMAC execs where high pay is guaranteed without evaluation.

    What a load of bullsh**. GMAC is a criminal organization.

  • OG

    Riiiight. GMAC has the time, motivation and inclination to develop a bias against Trump and reflect that in their data. Do you hear yourself right now?

  • Split

    More anti-Trump dog-whistling, me thinks.
    “Brain drain”? The elite schools don’t show a meaningful drop off in the percentage of their student bodies which are international. What’s more, the international students are supposed to have higher GMAT scores, particularly at the right tail where the elites recruit, yet the elites don’t show any drop off in test scores.