Business schools outside the US experience spike in MBA applications

Business schools in Canada and Europe are experiencing an increase in domestic applications this year amid COVID-19.

By U2B Staff 

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Business schools outside the United States are enjoying a soar in MBA applications from both international and domestic students as top the MBA programmes in the US take a tumble.  

The Wall Street Journal notes that international MBA programmes — especially those in Europe and Canada — are seeing an increase in interest from prospective students who want to stay closer to home, as well as from students in Asia and Latin America who want to avoid US business schools.


Schools and admissions coaches attribute the rise in international student interest to COVID-19 travel restrictions, higher tuition costs in the US and an American political climate in recent years that has been marked by increased US-China tensions and several disruptive immigration policies.

MBA programmes in the US were already showing signs of struggle in recent years; there was already a 14% drop in international students a year ago. Foreign students are important sources of university revenue and account for approximately 40% of all applicants to US business schools in 2019. They also often pay a hefty full tuition and fees, according to WSJ.

More students opt for local business schools

The University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management vice dean of MBA programmes Joseph Milner told WSJ that its domestic applications have increased this year, and cites this trend as being partly because Canadian students are willing to stay closer to home. 

Echoing him is Brandon Kirby, Erasmus University’s Rotterdam School of Management director of MBA recruitment and admissions. Kirby has said that more domestic students in the Netherlands are applying to stay closer to home and are interested in the programme’s part-time or executive programmes that allow them to keep their jobs in their home country, rather than depart for the US. 

“The US remains a top destination for a lot of students but it won’t be at the level it was,” Kirby states.


At the IE Business School in Madrid, school dean Martin Boehm said more students were applying from Latin America and from across Europe who want to stay closer to home. “They are probably more comfortable staying in Europe and being just a two or three-hour flight away,” he said.

Many business schools have shifted to online learning for their MBA programmes in response to the pandemic. While interest in online US MBA programmes has grown this year, a Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) survey of prospective students said international candidates are still more likely to consider pursuing an in-person MBA closer to their home compared with online learning.

In a similar vein, the value of an MBA education hasn’t waned. A key finding from a GMAC survey showed that despite disruption to the global economy and future of work due to the pandemic, the confidence of corporate recruiters in the skills and abilities of graduate management talent remains strong.