Asia-Pacific, Canada and Europe regions see gains; strong economy and political turmoil continue to impact US numbers.
Overall, demand for graduate management education is stable in 2018 compared with 2017 according to findings of the annual Application Trends Survey from the Graduate Management Admission Council. Applications to business school programs in the Asia-Pacific, European, and Canadian markets are up over 2017 while programs in the United States report a drop in volume.
Across graduate business school program types—including MBA, business master’s, and PhD programs—most programs in Asia-Pacific, Canada and Europe received more applications than last year. Growth in the Canadian and European regions derive largely from increases in international applications, while domestic growth is fueling increases in Asia-Pacific.
Regionally, strong growth in application volume across all program types was offset by declines in the United States. Programs in Asia-Pacific had an 8.9% increase, Canada realized 7.7% growth, and Europe had a 3.2% increase in application demand across all program types.
The United States experienced a nearly 7% decline, including a 1.8% decline in domestic application volume and a 10.5% drop in international volume across all program types.
“Demand for graduate management education is stable year over year,” said Sangeet Chowfla, GMAC president and CEO. “However, there are significant regional variations. Non-U.S. programs continue to thrive, highlighting the continued emergence of enhanced educational and professional opportunities outside the United States.”
“Several factors can help explain the lag in U.S. business school demand,” Chowfla continued. “A low unemployment rate means young professionals have an increased opportunity cost of leaving their jobs in pursuit of an advanced degree. Combined with a disruptive American political environment and the emergence over the past decade of tremendous educational and professional opportunities abroad, one can begin to understand in part why demand in the United States has dropped from previously record-high application volumes at some schools.”
Student Mobility Remains a Key Determinant
The ability to attract top international talent continues to be a critical determinant to programs’ overall application volumes. This year, 65 percent of Canadian programs and 63 percent of European programs report an increase in international applications over 2017. The majority of applications received by Canadian and European programs this year are from international applicants.
Most programs in the United States report declining demand as non-U.S. students continue to identify attractive educational and professional opportunities elsewhere. Application volumes from domestic candidates are also soft this year for U.S. programs, with only 4 in 10 reporting growth in domestic application volume.
“Access is a critical issue facing higher education,” said Bill Boulding, dean of Duke University’s Fuqua School and chairperson of the GMAC board of directors. “Economic indicators in the U.S. are strong, but if we are to maintain such growth and productivity we need to make it possible for people from all different regions and backgrounds to study and work in the location they desire. If that doesn’t happen, we limit not only the possibility of an individual, but also continued economic prosperity in the U.S. and growth around the world.”
MBA and Business Master’s Programs
Full-time, two-year MBA programs are still the most in-demand program type. Overall, MBA and business master’s programs report a similar volume of applications in 2018 compared with last year.
The majority of European Master in Management and Master of Finance programs report growth in demand. A bright spot for U.S. programs are Master of Data Analytics programs, most of which report application volume growth this year. Counter to the overall trend, more US Master of Data Analytics programs report international application growth than domestic application growth in 2018.