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Why Europe’s B-Schools Get More Apps

Why European B-Schools Get More Apps Than The US

European business schools have been seeing an increase in demand recently.

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s (GMAC) 2017 Application Trends Survey Report, European business program are nearly twice as likely to report growth in international applicants compared with the U.S. Only 32% of U.S. programs report growing international application volumes in 2017 compared with 49% in 2016. Last year’s report found that 65% of European business schools saw greater application volume. Overall, 54% of U.S. business schools saw no increase in applications from 2015 to 2016.

Jonathan Moules, a writer at Financial Times, talks about why European business schools are seeing an increase in demand in a recent article.

“European schools appear to be enjoying a boom in demand at the expense of their peers in the US, with MBA students attracted both by the prospect of studying alongside a greater mix of nationalities and by shorter courses — in some cases half the standard two-year American degree,” Moules says.

GMAC reports that growth in the European MBA market is driven by foreign applications, with more than 90% of candidates this year coming from schools’ home countries.

A big reason why applicants are choosing European MBAs is the time spent out of the workplace. Compared with America’s two-year MBA, European MBAs tend to only take one year. Melinda Auli, who is from Chicago, chose to study at HEC Paris for her MBA over an American MBA. Auli tells Financial Times that the European MBA program offers the most ideal timeframe for her career.

“Sixteen months is the perfect amount of time,” she says. She adds that the 16 months was just enough time for her to get to know her peers, while not spending too much time out of the workplace.

Economic Uncertainty

While European MBAs can offer shorter time spent outside the workplace, they come with drawbacks as well. One of the biggest risks right now concerning European business schools is the European economy, according to Soumitra Dutta, board chair at the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

“When the economy doesn’t do well, business schools suffer,” he tells Financial Times.

David Asch is director at the European Foundation for Management Development, an accreditation body. Asch tells Financial Times that European countries have been struggling to increase GDP in recent years. This, in turn, has affected education funding for research and faculty.

Political Disruption

On top of economic uncertainty, many European countries are facing political unrest as well. Examples include the UK’s decision to leave the EU and Catalonia’s independence from Spain. Yet, Asch tells Financial Times that local political unrest tends not to affect business schools.

“Business schools do not rely on the local economy in the same way that businesses do,” Asch says. “If they need extra funding, for instance, they can go to companies operating on a global, not a regional level, or to former students now working all over the world.”

If anything, financial changes, such as the pound sterling dropping against the euro and US dollar, have made courses cheaper for those studying at UK business schools. Applications to master’s degree courses at UK business schools this year saw a bump in demand. According to the Chartered Association of Business Schools, which represents UK MBA providers, the increase in applications is due to the exchange rate boost.

In Northern Italy, 90% of voters in the Lombardy and Veneto regions voted for greater autonomy from Rome. Gianmario Verona is rector at Milan’s SDA Bocconi School of Management. Verona tells Financial Times that there was concern about the economic effect on Bocconi, but the school has actually seen an increase in applicants. Verona says that a school’s reputation is more influential to applicants than local politics.

“The quality of the education you provide matters most,” he says. Verona adds that while second-tier US b-schools are experiencing declining demand, highly-ranked schools are still seeing increasing applications.

According to an application report by GMAC, smaller MBA programs in the U.S. have generally reported a decline in applications. “A strong economy and a disruptive political climate is likely contributing to the downward trend in application volumes among smaller U.S. programs this year.” explains Sangeet Chowfla, GMAC president and CEO, in a statement accompanying the report.

The biggest concern for European MBA students will be finding a job with high unemployment in European countries like France and Spain. As for Aulie, she tells Financial Times that she hopes to find work in London or Geneva, but she says she knows Brexit may influence the latter option. Yet, she adds that business school students are pragmatic and if working in Europe doesn’t work out, her options aren’t completely restricted. “I am a global citizen,” she says.

Sources: Financial Times, Graduate Management Admission Council, Graduate Management Admission Council, Poets & Quants