Employers Shying Away From Internationals

Most MBA programs are seeing decreased recruitment activity for graduating international students, according to a new survey of schools

Last month Poets&Quants reported on a Kaplan survey that showed rising concerns about declining applications and enrollment of international students in U.S. business schools. Whether cause or effect, that news is related to a survey released Wednesday (April 11) showing another troubling facet of the shifting landscape: With recruiters reluctant to expend resources on training international hires, business schools now are reporting declines in foreign student recruitment from their MBA and specialized master’s programs, as well.

The MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance, a professional association for individuals and employers in graduate business career services, conducted a survey of 94 schools worldwide and found that while recruiting for all students has remained strong overall, recruiting of international students has declined for a second consecutive year. Why? According to MBACSEA, many responding schools say employers are concerned about investing time and money in recruiting international students given the risks involved — particularly the unknowns of the current political climate, especially in the U.S.

Applicants and U.S. schools alike have anticipated the so-called “Trump effect” on the influx of students to MBA and specialized master’s programs, along with the “Brexit effect” on schools in the UK. Both are widely expected to be generally negative. The data for the last year has largely conformed to expectations, showing an increasingly negative effect on the numbers of students willing to consider school in the U.S. (though that negative effect hasn’t manifested at UK B-schools). This new survey shows another aspect of the scene: employers have their worries, too. And whether employers are reacting to fewer candidates — or fewer willing to stay in the U.S. post-MBA — the decreased recruitment activity isn’t likely to have a sanguine effect on applications and enrollment going forward.


The MBACSEA report is based on confidential surveys completed between January and February 2018; 77% of respondents were U.S. schools. Among the highlights:

    • Full-time job opportunities for full-time international MBA students have decreased for over 68% of the responding institutions. In the 2016 survey, over 50% reported a decrease.
    • Nearly 43% of responding institutions report an increase in the Technology sector for full-time recruiting activity for international full-time MBA students; however, compared to the 2016 survey results, most sectors report double-digit increases in the percentage of institutions reporting a decrease in recruiting activity.
    • For internships, the picture isn’t much better: 11.3% of respondents say opportunities for international MBA students are on the rise, 33.8% say they’ve stayed the same, and 54.9% say they’ve gotten worse. 

Breaking down the responses by industry, MBACSEA found that Consumer Packaged Goods saw the greatest decline, with more than half of responding schools (50.7%) saying they had seen decreased recruiting activity for full-time international MBA students. Most other fields were in the 30-35% range for a decrease, while only Tech (42.9%) was above the 25% threshold for industries where recruiting activity was seen to have increased.

Recruiting activity by industry according to surveyed MBA programs. MBACSEA


The picture is no better for specialized master’s candidates. According to MBACSEA’s survey, only 17.5% of survey respondents say full-time opportunities have increased for international specialized master’s students, while 40% say opportunities have stayed the same and 42.5% say they have decreased. For internships, it’s even worse than that: 9.1% increase, 36.4% same, 54.6% decrease.

Breaking down by industry: fully half (50%) of respondents say international specialized master’s recipients have fewer job opportunities in government, while large portions portend similarly dim prospects in Consumer Packaged Goods (44%), Media/Entertainment (42.1%), and Consulting (41.9%). Best prospects? Tech again, with 41.9% saying job opportunities are on the rise.

Recruiting activity by industry according to surveyed specialized master’s programs. MBACSEA

The 2017 MBA CSEA Fall Recruiting Trends Survey was compiled, tabulated, and analyzed for MBACSEA by Industry Insights, an independent research and analytics firm that specializes in conducting customized research for associations.


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