The Top 5 Places Prospective MBA Students Want to Study and Why |

The Top 5 Places Prospective MBA Students Want to Study and Why

By Helen Vaudrey

Updated April 15, 2021 Updated April 15, 2021

Among other things, the QS Applicant Survey 2015 reveals the top potential study destinations for prospective MBA students around the world. Unsurprisingly, the US tops the list, followed by the UK, Canada, Australia and Germany.

According to the survey, the most important factor in prospective MBA students’ choice of study destination is the international recognition of qualifications, followed by the availability of financial aid and a desire to work there after graduating. It is also worth noting that the top four destinations on this list are English-speaking countries (or predominantly English speaking). As English is one of the most spoken languages in the world, and the lingua franca of business, an Anglophone environment can certainly add value for international students.

Here, we provide a breakdown of the top five MBA study destinations listed in the QS Applicant Survey and analyze some of the reasons behind their popularity.

United States


The US is the birthplace of the MBA and remains the most popular place of study for the degree. However, this year the country suffered a slight drop in interest from prospective MBA students, down from 67% to 65% (the figures represent interest rather than intent) – the biggest drop in percentage point terms in the top 20 study destinations. This is believed to be due to increased openness among international students to a greater variety of study destinations

Despite this drop, it is unlikely that the US will be relinquishing its place in this particular ranking anytime soon. The US is a powerhouse for business and commerce and New York is the world’s most prominent global financial center – a strong incentive for aspiring MBAs despite the cost of living!

Job prospects are very important to prospective MBAs of course. Indeed, 51% of respondents to the QS Applicant Survey identify ‘would like to work there after study’ as one of the main factors in their choice of study destination

The US is home to some of the world’s top business schools, including Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania – which jointly top the QS Global 200 rankings for the US & Canada (which many would argue as ranking as the best in the world). MBAs in the US can be expensive when compared to their European counterparts, but this does not seem to deter people from around the world choosing the US as their top study destination.

United Kingdom


The UK consistently ranks behind the United States in tables of popular study destinations.  It is also home to some of the world’s top business schools. The hub of MBA activity is London, the second most economically powerful city in the world. Indeed, despite the financial woes that have gripped major financial cities since the crash in 2007-08, the UK has recorded steady growth and is tipped to become the fastest-growing G7 economy in 2015.

London is the most competitive city in Europe and offers many opportunities to MBA students worldwide. Hundreds of languages are spoken in London among a workforce of millions – it is a city where diversity is welcomed and business commerce is encouraged. London has a relatively light-touch approach to business regulation under the current Conservative government and offers one of Europe’s lowest tax regimes – an incentive designed to encourage business growth and entrepreneurial startups in the city that will continue for at least another half a decade.

Top business schools in the UK that offer MBA programs include (to offer a random selection) London Business School (Europe’s number 1 school), Saïd Business School, Nottingham University Business School and the Cranfield School of Management. UK schools tend to offer one-year programs, with prices for MBA programs lower than their US counterparts, though lower than continental Europe. The cost of living is also high.



Students in the US and Canada are the least enthusiastic about studying an MBA in other regions, which means some of Canada’s popularity can be ascribed to domestic students and those just over the border. However, despite this, the country has plenty to offer international students, to whom the country also obviously appeals.

Top business schools in Canada feature four times in the top 20 QS Global 200 business school rankings for North America, and a total of 18 Canadian institutions make the list of 90 schools in total – which is an impressive feat considering that Canada has a population that is roughly 11% of that of the US.

Top business schools in Canada include the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and Ivey Business School. One of the reasons MBA students flock to Canada is due to its work laws upon graduation. Under Canadian law, graduates can instantly turn their study permit into a work permit for up to the length of their study program – this is not possible in the US or the UK.

As well as PSW visas, immigration laws in Canada are also a selling point for international students. According to the most recent Migrant Integration Policy Index, a ranking that analyzes how well equalrights, responsibilities and opportunities are granted in countries worldwide, Canada currently ranks in the top five.

Canada offers economic stability and a high quality of life to those wishing to study there. The cost of living is lower than the UK and the US. Although it is still comparatively high compared to the rest of the world, it pips the top two destinations in terms of affordability. Cities such as Vancouver and Toronto also rank highly on lists around the world documenting the best cities to live in.



This year, Australia held on to its position as the 4th most popular study destination for prospective MBA students. Those seeking a global business perspective need look no further. The country has close geographical proximity to Asia and strong business links throughout the Asia Pacific region. However lifestyle in Australia is decidedly Western (although this also applies to tuition…), providing a welcoming bridge between East and West to students who wish to gain international business exposure.

Another incentive for MBAs to study in Australia is the career prospects upon graduation. According to the most recent QS Jobs & Salary Trends Report, Australia is world’s 2nd best country in terms of MBA salary levels, just one place behind current leaders Switzerland, with an average of US$115,600 on offer.

There are a number of top business schools in Australia, including Melbourne Business School, the University of New South Wales, Australian National University and La Trobe Business School – all of which feature in the QS Global 200 Business Schools Report.

Australia is one of the largest mixed market economies in the world; however, with recent news coming to light about Black Monday trading in China, MBAs would do well to be wary of the impeding future of Australia’s economic growth – given that China is Australia’s biggest trading partner.



This year, Germany overtook France to take 5th place in the QS Applicant Survey list of the most-popular study destinations. More and more MBA degree programs in Germany are now being taught in English, which is, no doubt, a reason behind the nation’s surge in popularity among international students – despite the country being a relative latecomer to the MBA arena.

Germany boasts the largest national economy in Europe and is the founding member of the European Union and the Eurozone. It is a well-connected European country and a forerunner in economic affairs.  Germany ranks as the world’s 7th best country in terms of salary levels for MBAs – currently standing at US$89,000.

Despite Germany not being an Anglophone country, its English-taught courses are very popular with international applicants. Last year, the European School of Management and Technology, based in Berlin, announced that over 90% of students enrolled had come from outside Germany.

MBA tuition is relatively low in Germany, as is the cost of living; no doubt another reason behind its increased popularity.

This article was originally published in August 2015 . It was last updated in April 2021

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