Applying to business school abroad is no easy feat. It used to be all about studying in the United States. Now, the market is crowded.
Countries across the world have seen a growth in interest from candidates as top business schools go global and offer exciting new program options for MBA and masters students.
In Top Countries For Business School Candidates In 2019, we highlight the 25 most popular countries for graduate management education, according to business school candidates.
We show which countries have seen the biggest increases in popularity; and the biggest drops.
We break down the data by type of program and citizenship of the candidate. We speak to international students to find out the pros and cons of studying in their country of choice. And we report on the preferred study destinations of Generation Z, a new generation of candidates disrupting the industry.
We’ve put this report together with our partners at the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), based on a survey of 9,617 prospective business school students conducted between January and December 2018.
Read on or skip to your section of interest by clicking one of the links below:
Note: Hong Kong is referred to as a country in this report. Officially, Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.
As the founding father of the MBA, the USA tops the list of top countries for business school candidates—52.6% of business school candidates want to study there. However, the last decade has seen a steady decline in its popularity.
The popularity of the US as a study destination has plummeted by 15.8% in the last 10 years and 7.6% in the last five, as the global market has become more competitive. Tight visa laws and, more recently, an explosive political climate have also deterred internationals from studying in the US.
Developed economies in the West are the most attractive. The UK (9.5% of the candidates most want to study there), Canada (8.5%), France (4.8%), and Germany (3.3%) make up the top five.
Canada has increased in popularity the most in the past five years, by 2.8%. Canada is followed by the UK (up by 2.2%), France (1.5%) and Germany (0.9%).
Elsewhere, Singapore, India, and Hong Kong* feature in the top 10. Despite their status as the world’s leading emerging economies, India and China have seen their popularity decline.
While China seems to be curbing its decline (down from -1.3% over the past 10 years to -0.1% in the past five years), the rate of India’s decline is more concerning, going from a -0.7% decline in the past 10 years to -1.2% in the last five.
Many Chinese and Indian students study abroad, making up the majority of international students in business schools across the US and Europe, while most Westerners are not yet ready to study in emerging markets.
The US is still the market leader across graduate management programs. However, the share of the market differs hugely when broken down by program
For the two-year MBA, the US still reigns supreme despite falling application numbers, with 64.8% of candidates preferring to study two-year MBAs there. Canada (8.3%) and the UK (6.2%) round up the top three.
For the one-year MBA, the US is almost 10% less popular, with 55.1% of candidates preferring to study there, followed by the UK at 9.5%, Canada at 9.2%, and France at 5.3%.
When it comes to masters programs, the market is more diverse. 28.9% of candidates most want to study Master’s in Management (MiM) programs in the US; a much smaller portion of the pie. Alongside Canada and the UK, France, Germany, and the Netherlands are popular countries for MiM candidates.
The UK is the second most popular destination for Master’s in Finance (MiF) and Master’s in Data Analytics candidates after the US.
While 2.1% of global candidates most want to study two-year MBAs in India and 2.4% for one-year MBAs, just 0.7% want to study MiMs, with India’s MBA colleges traditionally aimed at pre-experience students.
Consequently, while India ranks in the top six most popular countries in the world for MBA programs and 10th for Masters in Data Analytics, it comes outside the top 10 for MiMs and MiFs.
Aside from Singapore, Asia tends to be less attractive for business masters candidates, with many programs in China and Hong Kong still in their infancy.
Candidates’ study preferences differ depending on where they’re from.
While US government policy is less welcoming to internationals than it has been in the past, the US remains the top most popular country for the majority of business school candidates worldwide.
The exception is Western Europe. Despite Brexit, the UK beats the US as the most popular country for Western Europeans.
This does include citizens from the UK. However, the UK is also the second most attractive destination for Americans, Chinese and Southeast Asians, and Latin Americans.
After a host of Western European countries, Singapore and Canada, in 10th and 11th, are the most attractive non-European countries for Western Europeans.
After the US, Americans want to study in Western Europe and Canada. Italy and Spain are popular destinations for Americans.
More Indians and Central/South Asians prefer to study in India than study in the UK. Outside North America and Western Europe, Indians and Central/South Asians most want to study in Singapore and Australia.
Currently, few non-Africans are prepared to study in African countries like South Africa and Nigeria. As well as North America and Western Europe, Chinese and Southeast Asians prefer studying in Hong Kong and Singapore to studying in China.
In fact, China and Hong Kong have some way to go to becoming top destinations for international business school candidates, only ranking in the top 10 (in seventh and third respectively) for candidates from China and Southeast Asia.
India ranks third for candidates from India and Central/South Asia, but 23rd or lower for all other citizenships.
You’d be hard pressed to find an African business school candidate interested in studying in Portugal (the lowest ranked country by African candidates’ preferences), or a Chinese, Indian, Latin American, or Western European candidate in Nigeria.
Americans are less likely to study in Africa or Scandinavia than any of their counterparts.
A generational tidal wave is sweeping over graduate management education.
While the US has long been the most attractive country for business school candidates, we predict the US to continue to decline in popularity in the coming years. This change will be driven by Generation Z.
Generation Z, candidates born in the mid-1990s to early 2000s (under 24 year-olds), are almost 10% less likely to study in the US than millennials (24-to-30 year-olds).
Gen Z are ready to study in more diverse countries, while millennials have a stronger preference for English-speaking countries. Gen Z are more likely to study in Europe (in the UK, France, and Germany), although Canada is preferred by millennials.
Countries benefiting from generational change include Hong Kong—ranked the 13th most popular country in the world by millennials but seventh by Gen Z—and Italy, ranked 14th by millennials and ninth by Gen Z.
Gen Z are marginally less likely to study in countries like Singapore, India, Spain, and the Netherlands than millennials, although these are still among the most popular destinations.
The findings detailed in this report are based on surveys of individuals who registered on mba.com—the GMAC website for prospective graduate business students—and identified their preferred study destination.
The report is based on responses from a total of 9,617 prospective business school students surveyed between January and December 2018.
The survey respondents are 56.3% male, 43.3% female, and 0.4% identified as ‘Other’.
27.4% are age 22 and under; 17.3%, 23 to 24; 35.4%, 25 to 30; 14.4%, 31 to 39; 4.6%, 40+.
8.1% are citizens from Africa; 0.9% Australia & Pacific Islands; 3.9% Canada; 14.7% Central & Southeast Asia; 3.2% Eastern Europe; 4.8% Latin America; 2.3% Middle East; 30.2% USA; 13.3% Western Europe.
Data on trends or comparisons to previous years is based on responses from more than 126,000 individuals surveyed between the years 2009 and 2017.
*Hong Kong is referred to as a country in this report. Officially, Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.