MBA Programmes in US see Decline in International Application Volume: the Applications Trend Survey Report 2017 released by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC)
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MBA Programmes in US see Decline in International Application Volume: GMAC Report

MBA programmes in the US have observed a decline in International application volume, according to the findings of the Applications Trend Survey Report 2017 released by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). Across all program types, Only 32 percent of U.S. MBA programmes reported growth in international application volumes in 2017 compared to 49 percent in 2016.

The recent political events in the U.S. and Donald Trump’s immigration curbs have impacted application volumes from international candidates. Even though Brexit vote issue, about two-thirds of programs in the United Kingdom have seen international demand grow. Programs in Europe and Canada are about twice as likely to report growth in international applicants compared with the U.S.



According to a new application trends survey from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), Application Growth Worldwide is observed in Largest and Most Popular Business School Programs while Smaller Programs Experience Declines in the number of international application.

MBA Programmes in US see Decline in International Application Volume: GMAC Report
Largest, most popular business school programs worldwide see application growth while smaller programs experience declines. U.S. political climate is impacting application volumes from international candidates in 2017.

According to a survey from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), this year 3 in 4 (73 percent) graduate business programs with 201 or more class seats report increased application volumes compared to 39 percent of the smallest programs (50 or fewer class seats). The growth of the larger U.S. programs is driven by a revival of domestic applications, offsetting declines in international applicants.

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Application growth is seen in the largest, most popular business school programs worldwide while smaller programs experience declines. U.S. political climate is impacting application volumes from international candidates in 2017.

Increase in International Applicants for MBA Programmes in Europe, Asia, Canada

About seventy-seven percent of Canadian programs report increases in international applications (46 percent in 2016), as well as 67 percent of European programs (65 percent in 2016).

In 2017 regardless of class size, a majority of programs in Europe, Canada, East and Southeast Asia, and India report growing volumes while fewer than half the programs in the United States are growing.

In Canada, 74% MBA programmes and 67% business master’s reported a growth in application volume. International candidates in the two programmes stand at 64% and 88%, respectively, with India and China being the two major sources of international candidates. However, master in data analytics and part-time lockstep MBA programmes continue to be popular with a growth of 74% and 54%, respectively.

In India, only 20 MBA programmes have participated in the 2017 survey in which 85% programmes reported growth. Indian MBA programmes continue to be competitive while receiving an average of 40.3 applications per seat as compared to the US where full-time two-year MBA programmes received 4.7 applications per seat. Less than 1% of these programmes received any international candidates.

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

The results of the GMAC Application Trends Survey Report 2017 show that women are increasing their representation in the graduate business school pipeline. Men continue to dominate the class composition But the survey report indicated an increase in the number of women applicants. Globally, 42% applications were by women candidates, up from 37 percent in 2013.

Additional Key Findings from Survey

  • Since the Great Recession, Overall volume to the general part-time MBA program category has been stagnant or on the decline. Part-time lockstep programs,  in which students proceed through a classroom-based program as a group has seen stronger application volumes than part-time self-paced programs, in which students set their own schedule in a flexible format. Among U.S. part-time MBA programs, 54 percent of lockstep programs report increased volume this year, compared with just 34 percent of self-paced programs.
  • Most graduate business programs expect to see company sponsorship remain stable. About half (52 percent) of part-time, self-paced students are expected to receive employer support, as are 40 percent of executive MBA and 39 percent of part-time lock-step MBA students.
  • Participating programs received a combined total of 466,176 applications during the 2017 application cycle. Ninety-two percent of all participating programs report that the applicants this year are similarly or more academically qualified than candidates last year.
  • The experience level that the applicant brings to the graduate business program has remained relatively consistent in 2017 compared with five years ago. The majority of full-time MBA applicants have experience between three to 10 years; the majority of executive MBA applicants have 10 or more years of experience, and most online MBA applicants have six or more years of experience.

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GMAC President and CEO Sangeet Chowfla said, “Demand for graduate business education remains strong, especially among the largest programs, which tend also to be the most well-known programs with brand recognition. While non-U.S. programs are thriving, a strong economy and a disruptive political climate are likely contributing to the downward trend in application volumes among smaller U.S. programs this year.”

GMAC conducted its 18th annual Application Trends Survey from early June to mid-July 2017, which saw the participation of 351 business schools and faculties located in 40 countries representing 965 graduate management programs, including MBA, non-MBA business master’s, and doctoral-level programs. The survey questionnaire contained approximately two dozen questions and was administered online.

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