Harvard Business School probably began business education, though Tuck School of Business in New Hampshire also claims to have created the first actual MBA.
Either way, for decades, the concept of taking an MBA remained a North American phenomenon. It wasn't until much later, in the 1950s and 1960s, that INSEAD in France and then other institutions such as London Business School and Manchester Business School filled the gap in Europe.
But it is the leading US business schools that dominate the market. These schools have long-established networks of alumni, people who believe in their school's core values and will use the network to mutual benefit. The schools benefit from this too as they are able to return to their alumni for years after they leave the school to ask for financial contributions, though the recent economic downturn has seen a dent in this.
Since QS began its annual research into the opinions of MBA applicants, the USA has always been the number one destination for MBA candidates, with around 80% of candidates considering studying there.
Canada is popular too, perennially third behind the UK. It is testament to the quality of the schools and the great reputation they have built up that these figures have remained the same for several years.
Choosing to study an MBA in the USA allows a candidate enormous access to some of the best business schools in the world.
Each year, these top schools vie for the highest-ranking positions in almost all polls, including the QS Global 200 Top Business School Report MBA rating, published annually on TopMBA.com. In the Financial Times MBA ranking, which is the only major poll that compares business schools across borders, 11 of the top 20 business schools are in the US. Canada meanwhile has five in the top 100.
Generally, though there are exceptions, North American courses are two years in duration, compared with the European model, which usually has courses that are one year in length.
These schools believe that the two-year option allows for a deeper level of understanding of oneself, time for self-reflection, time to build up solid networks with other students and professors, and to look deeper at the subject matter in hand. These courses will almost always help students find internships during the intermediate summer, a situation that the European model tends not to offer.
With such a rich history and high standards of education, studying an MBA in North America has great benefits. However, in terms of visas, things can get a little complicated.
In 2003, as an act or protectionism, the George W Bush administration decided to slash the number of visas it granted to MBA graduates from 200,000 to 65,000. This meant that MBA alumni who failed to receive the H1B visa had to find an American company to sponsor them to stay, or to leave the country soon after graduating.
America's loss was Canada's gain, however.
Realizing that there was an opportunity to start attracting the brightest talent there, the Canadian government announced that it was extending its visa regulations to allow qualified people to stay in the country up to three years after graduating. This has coincided with some very strenuous marketing by Canadian MBA programs such as Queen's School of Business, Rotman School of Management and Richard Ivey School of Business, to raise international awareness of Canada as a viable study alternative to the US, a work in progress that is starting to reap rewards even now.
Despite this, the US remains the world's leading MBA destination and will doubtless remain that way for the foreseeable future. Applications for the top North American MBA programs are competitive, but the standard of education is high and the kudos of studying at many of those schools, Harvard, Tuck, Wharton, MIT Sloan, and NYU Stern among others, is internationally renowned.
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