Where in the World is the MBA Class of 2018?

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Where in the World is the MBA Class of 2018?

For decades, the GMAC (Graduate Management Admissions Council) has been tracking the changes in the graduate business school market. When the GMAT began sixty years ago, the creators intended it as an assessment for applications to nine of the top American business schools. Today, thousands of schools use the GMAT as part of their admissions criteria.

Over the years, the cohort of GMAT test-takers and business school students has become a lot more geographically diverse. Just ten years ago, Americans made up almost two-thirds of all GMAT test-takers. But in the most recent testing year, only a third of GMAT test-takers were from the US. Students from over 200 countries took the GMAT, and MBA programs report an similarly diverse group of applications.

As you can see, 44% of GMAT test-takers are from somewhere in Asia. Americans remain the largest cohort, but perhaps not for much longer. Just as the population of test-takers has become more international, the willingness of students to study internationally has increased.

More than half of prospective business school students report that they’re looking to study outside their home country.  This is a huge jump from back in 2010, when only 40% of prospective students said they were looking at international programs. As you can see in the graph below, Americans are by far the least likely to be looking into international programs, while students from Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and Eastern Europe are the most likely to seek an international program. However, students from each region are more likely to consider an international program than they were in 2010.

Some prospective international students seek to study internationally but stay within their own world region. This is most common in Europe where over half (55%) of students seek study destinations outside their country of citizenship but within Europe. Of Canadian students who seek to study internationally, nearly two thirds (63%) say that they prefer to study in the US.

According to the GMAC survey, programs receive the most program applications from India, China, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Colombia, South Korea, Vietnam, Nigeria, Taiwan, Zimbabwe, Nepal, Russia, and Thailand, in that order.

The U.S. remains the most popular international study destination, with two-thirds (66%) of students reporting that the US was one of their top choices. However, that’s 7% less than in 2010. American programs appear to be losing popularity, especially among European and Asian students. The other preferred destinations were the UK (6%), Canada (5%), France (3%), India (3%), Hong Kong (2%), Germany (2%), Singapore (2%), Netherlands (2%), and Australia (1%).


Why students want to study abroad and what they study

The most popular reasons for international study were:

  1. Study outside their country of residence including a desire for an international career
  2. The welcoming nature of the study destination
  3. English-language development
  4. Word-of-mouth recommendation

The preferred type of graduate business program varies by region. Forty percent of students surveyed said they were considering a traditional full-time MBA. However, North American students were the most likely to consider part-time programs. Thirty-nine percent of Canadians and American students said they were considering a part-time program, compared to 23% internationally. In Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, business master’s programs in finance or management are edging out the traditional MBA.

Each business school cohort seems to be more international than the last, and there’s no doubt that these students will bring a new perspective to their classes as well as the business world.

All data comes from the GMAC reports on prospective students, application trends, and breakdown by citizenship.

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