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Amid US, Europe Competing For International Students, A Significant Number Of Them Prefer To Study Close To Home, Says Survey

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), a global association of leading graduate business schools, has issued its GMAC Prospective Students Survey – 2022 Summary Report, which examines how candidate interests have changed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The study was collected through questionnaire responses from over 6,500 people around the world who expressed an interest in graduate business education in 2021. Whereas cost remains a foremost focus in today’s robust economy with a brisk job market and inflationary pressures, candidates from all over the world continue to see graduate management education as a tried-and-true route to promote professionalism and position themselves to achieve their goals at pre-pandemic stages.

Worldwide, four out of every five candidates stated that having a graduate business degree enables them to stand out at work. Likewise, the full-time MBA programme remains the most popular programme option, with one out of every four candidates preferring the two-year full-time format and another one in every five preferring the one-year full-time format.

“While the pandemic has altered aspects of the graduate management education landscape, the fundamental perceptions of the value of graduate management education generally and the MBA specifically continue to stay strong,” said Sangeet Chowfla, president and CEO of GMAC. “While there continue to be evolutions in candidate’s preferred study destinations, delivery formats, career paths, and perceptions of admissions testing policies if there were ever any concerns that the pandemic and its effects would diminish business school aspirants’ perceptions of the value of a degree, the latest GMAC findings of the Prospective Students Survey should help put them to rest.”

More candidates wish to study closer to home, while the United States and Europe ramp up their competition for international students. More candidates from traditionally mobile markets are studying closer to home than they were before the pandemic. For example, between 2019 and 2021, the percentage of Central and South Asian candidates who prefer to study abroad fell from 89 to 73 percent. Preference to study abroad among East and Southeast Asian candidates fell from 92 to 87 percent between 2020 and 2021, possibly indicating that studying abroad was limited due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.

Almost the same proportion of international candidates—those whose preferred study destination differs from their country of citizenship—said in 2021 that the United States and Western Europe are their preferred study destinations (39 percent, respectively). Specifically, among international MBA candidates, the United States is the preferred destination of half (50 percent), with the United States expanding its lead over second-place Western Europe (28 percent) between 2019 and 2021. Meanwhile, Western Europe continues to be the preferred destination for more than half of international business master’s degree candidates.

Belief in the value of fully online education remains low, whereas hybrid formats are becoming more popular. Candidates place a higher value on the in-person business school experience than the online experience, as the proportion of surveyed candidates who prefer fully online programmes remains unchanged. Most global prospective students polled in 2021 disagree that online degree programmes are as valuable as on-campus programmes (73 percent ). Nearly four out of five people disagree that networking opportunities are comparable, and two out of three disagree that career opportunities are comparable. Moreover, between 2020 and 2021, these pessimistic views softened slightly.

Simultaneously, preference for hybrid models has increased significantly along with all candidate types, particularly among those who prefer Executive, Part-time, and Flexible MBA programmes (44%, up from 30% in 2019), but also among those who want to study full-time to earn a business master’s (20%, up from 13% in 2019) or MBA (13 percent, from 7 percent in 2019). Worldwide, 20% of candidates polled in 2021 prefer hybrid programme delivery, up from 14% prior to the pandemic. Underrepresented minority candidates in the United States (28 percent) are also interested in hybrid programmes, a significant increase from pre-pandemic levels. Consulting remains the most popular career path for prospective students, but technology is on the rise.

In the United States, where “the Great Resignation” has shaken up the job market, 42 percent of candidates identify as “career switchers,” whose goal is to either change industries or job functions by pursuing a business degree, which is significantly higher than the global average of 32 percent. As it was before the pandemic, consulting remains the top industry and job function for both male and female candidates. However, there is growing interest in the technology industry, particularly among career changers (50%) and non-business undergraduate majors (49 percent). Furthermore, between 2019 and 2021, women’s interest in technology increased (29 percent to 34 percent).

Unintended consequences resulted from test optionality and waiver policies. Most candidates worldwide agree that admissions exams improve the fairness and transparency of business school admissions. Exams, according to most, improve schools’ reliability in evaluating applicants and demonstrate the importance they place on the quality of students they admit. According to survey results, international candidates have a positive attitude toward admissions testing. Approximately half of the international candidates believe that a school’s use of admissions exams is an indicator of the quality of the programme and an important criterion for considering applying to that school, and twice as many agree as disagree that admissions exams are an effective way to determine which students to admit.

Furthermore, approximately two-fifths of prospective students agree that the criteria for test waivers are complex and do not apply to a large proportion of applicants, and approximately one-third agree that waivers disproportionately benefit candidates who are less prepared for a graduate business degree programme.

GMAC, which has been publishing The Prospective Students Survey for more than a decade, also reveals that respondents from India are more likely than any other geography (35 percent) to want to become a CEO, while candidates from the United States (21 percent) and China (23 percent) have this goalless frequently than the global average of 28 percent. Candidates from India are the most likely to prefer STEM-certified programmes (62 percent), particularly men (63 percent) and those who majored in STEM as an undergraduate (65 percent). Domestic candidates in India are particularly concerned with affordability, with the majority citing it as a factor in their destination selection.

Legal Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only.

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