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Germany: An Alternative MBA Destination

German Business Schools to Profit from USUK Instability

Germany’s business schools have spotted an opportunity to capitalize on the political turmoil engulfing the UK and the US. 

Few German MBA programs are ranked highly in prominent league tables and they have not enjoyed the same reputation on the international stage as their peers in continental Europe.

But with fears growing around tightened immigration regimes in the UK and the US – which would make it harder for students to secure the right to study and work there – business schools in Europe’s biggest economy believe they are poised to profit. 

“There hasn’t been a good history of business schools in Germany: traditional universities have been strong and Germans have always gone abroad to get their MBA degrees,” Nick Barniville, associate dean of degree programs at ESMT Berlin, says. 

But the tide is beginning to turn. 

“Brexit is a huge opportunity for us,” he says. “Current political events might prompt people to consider study destinations outside of the US or the UK. We have seen an exceptional increase in applications this year, by over 100% to our Masters in Management program and increases in applications to our MBA program, too.” 

Tanja Ward, director of Schiller International University’s Heidelberg campus in Germany, agrees. “Both Brexit and the presidential election of Trump may originate stricter immigration controls,” she says. “Our business school, where only 5-8% of the current MBA class is German-born, is currently recording a growing number of international applicants.”

German MBA a cost effective option

Their claims are backed up by some harder evidence.

Nearly 11% of UK business schools have already seen a decline in EU student applications because of Brexit, according to the Chartered Association of Business Schools. And more than half of US business schools have seen a fall in applications from international students, according to the Graduate Management Admissions Council, which links the fall with US president Donald Trump’s negative immigration rhetoric. In addition, the number of GMAT test-takers who send their scores to German business schools has tripled in five years. 

Schiller’s Ward acknowledges that Germany insists on students owning residence cards at an extra cost. But she adds that the country offers visa-free entry not only to students arriving from the EU but also to applicants from the US, Canada, Australia, Morocco, South Korea and Japan. In addition, Germany allows students 18 months to look for employment after they graduate, says ESMT’s Barniville. 

Tuition costs are another advantage to a German MBA. The €21,000 fee for Schiller’s one-year MBA program in Heidelberg is considerably lower than tuition at most top schools in the UK. With the euro looking attractive relative to the dollar, Germany offers a good return on investment to MBAs. 

Germany’s business schools are also buoyed by the Bologna Process, a European Commission initiative designed to increase compatibility between Europe’s education systems, and student mobility, says Ben Glover, GMAC director for Europe. At Schiller, students can transition between four international campuses. 

Multinationals and SMEs hiring MBAs in Germany

Upon graduation, job prospects are buoyed by the large number of SMEs which form the backbone of Germany’s economy. Up to 250,000 new jobs are created yearly in the SME sector, according to the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. A shortage of qualified employees costs these businesses €31 billion in lost revenue each year, according to a report by EY, the consultancy.

“Both the large multinational corporations like Bosch, BASF, Siemens, SAP and the many successful SMEs are looking for talent,” says Ralf Buerkle of Mannheim Business School. 

The language barrier can be a problem for international candidates, but many German MBA programs include language lessons.

Arguably the biggest problem for Germany’s business schools is their place in key MBA rankings, which many students rely on to compare programs. ESMT’s Barniville offers a riposte: rankings are weighted heavily to salaries and “MBA salaries in Germany tend to be lower because we have less people going into the financial and consulting sectors”, which are known to pay well.

With more people looking for options outside of the US and the UK, however, he believes the future looks bright for German business education. 

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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