Drop in Overseas MBA Applications at US Schools Attributed To Trump

Drop in Overseas MBA Applications at US Schools Attributed To Trump

Donald Trump’s immigration curbs are causing a drop in MBA applications from international students at US business schools, according to the degree’s global entrance test organizer. 


In a thinly-veiled reference to the bombastic US president, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) claimed that a “disruptive political climate is likely contributing to the downward trend in application volumes among smaller US programs this year”. Just 32% of US business master’s programs reported growing international application volumes in 2017, down from 49% in 2016 and the third straight year of deadlines.  

Fewer than half of US schools received an overall increase in applications. While Trump has caused angst among international students and academics over the past year, GMAC also attributed the fall in applications to the strengthening of the US economy, which historically has reduced demand for MBA degrees, as job prospects strengthen with the economy.  

MBA courses in Europe, Asia, Canada grow overseas applications

Comparatively, most of the MBA courses in Europe, Asia, Canada, and India reported growth in overall applications and those from international candidates. 77% of Canadian programs report increases in international applications, as well as 67% of European programs. 

Some two-thirds of MBA programs in the UK grew their number of applications from international applicants, suggesting that Brexit and the end of freedom of movement across the EU has not dented demand, as previously thought

At London Business School, MBA applications are up by 12% year-on-year, said Gareth Howells, executive director of MBA programs. LBS has seen the largest increases from overseas students, Howells said, for example from India, China, Mexico, and Argentina. 

“Students take a broader view when choosing where to get there MBA,” he said. “London remains a booming place for technology roles and for entrepreneurship, and many students are looking for those careers. Recent investments by Google, Facebook and Amazon are positive signs that in a post-Brexit environment job opportunities will still be available.”

Another trend driving applicants to MBA programs in Europe is the pressure to complete courses more quickly, and recoup a speedier return on investment. MBAs in Europe are generally 12 months in length, but in the US they usually run for two years – making the more expensive. 

Mid-tier US MBA programs will struggle the most

The decline in overseas student interest in US MBA programs was focused on smaller schools, which account for 56% of the country’s MBA courses but just 11% of enrolments. The biggest MBA programs in the US were more likely to report increased application numbers. This suggests that mid-tier and low-ranked business schools will struggle the most in the coming years, as they usually have the smallest cohorts. 

Demand for graduate business education remains strong “among the largest programs, which tend also to be the most well-known programs, with brand recognition,” said Sangeet Chowfla, GMAC’s CEO.

One bright spot for US business school was the growth in demand for part-time MBA and master’s of data analytics programs, which both grew application volume. Domestic candidates also remain an area of strength for the larger US schools.

Overall, international applicants represent 57% of US application volumes, 70% of Canadian volume, 89% of European volume, 20% of east and southeast Asian volume, and fewer than 1% of Indian volume.

GMAC conducted its 18th annual Application Trends Survey from June to July 2017. The findings are based on responses from 351 business schools and faculties located in 40 countries representing 965 graduate management programs.


Participating programs received a combined total of 466,176 applications during the 2017 application cycle.

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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