Canadian MBAs Profit From US Application Loss

Canadian MBAs Profit From US Application Loss

“To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.” So Tweeted Canada’s PR-friendly prime minister, Justin Trudeau, the day US president Donald Trump announced he would halt the US refugee program. 


Trump’s “America first” mantra stands in sharp contrast to his Canadian counterpart’s rhetoric. As well as banning entry to the US people from several Muslim-majority countries, Trump has controversially promised to slash the number of people immigrating to the US by half. 

Two-thirds of US MBAs see fall in international applications

That kind of policy is bad for business schools, who often rely on international students to fill and enrich their degree courses. In May the Graduate Management Admission Council reported that almost two-thirds of MBA programs in the US have seen a drop in applications from international candidates – one possible reason being that they feel unwelcome in the country.

This has led to predictions that schools outside the US will benefit. Canada, which is perceived as being more welcoming of foreigners, is proving that theory correct. 

At Rotman School of Management in Toronto, applications are up 27% year-on-year. Jamie Young, director of recruitment and admissions, attributes that growth partly to the ‘Trump effect’. But he also says that Canada’s increasing popularity as a study destination, and its favorable visa laws, have contributed to the increase in applications. 

Canada’s favorable visa laws

“The geopolitical climate in the US and the positive attention Canada is receiving as a study destination have increased interest in our MBA,” says Young. “Canada is known as an inclusive country and the three-year postgraduate work permit allows MBA graduates to build their careers here.” 

He says that while some candidates have shifted their focus from the US to Canada without telling the admissions team why, some have been explicit in saying that Trump is why they are not considering applying to MBAs south of Canadian the border. 

Rotman has implemented specific recruitment policies to target candidates who may be disillusioned with the US. First, the school contacted via email GMAT test takers from countries affected by Trump’s travel ban. “We communicated that diversity is a strength of our program,” Young says. The current Rotman MBA cohort of 350 people is comprised of 52% international students and 35 different nationalities, with 28 languages spoken. 

Second, Rotman has encouraged international applicants to apply earlier in the application cycle, to allow for ample time to process study permits, according to Young. “We wanted to accommodate those who have been displaced from the US,” he says.

Rotman is not the only Canadian business school seeing a bump in applications because of Trump. According to a survey by The Globe and Mail, applications from US students for the 2017-18 academic year are up by between 20-80% year-on-year at Canadian universities. 

Canadian dollar’s exchange rate compared to the US dollar has also helped

Ali Dastmalchian, dean of the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, told The Economist magazine that the school has seen a 50% increase in applications to its full-time MBA program. He said there were multiple factors contributing to the boost, including tightened immigration policies in the US, but that the Canadian dollar’s exchange rate compared to the US dollar has also helped. 


There are a great many reasons to study for an MBA in Canada, not least favorable immigration policies and cheaper tuition fees, but it seems that the more Trump clamps down on immigration, the more Canada’s business schools will continue to rise higher on the international stage. 

Seb Murray
Written by Seb Murray

Seb is a journalist and consulting editor who has developed a successful track record writing about business, education and technology for the international press.

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