The increase in the number of aspirants selecting the UK as their first-choice country for business studies has been bolstered by a falling pound and reduced interest in other study destinations around the world.
GMAC, which administers the GMAT exam, also said the most recent survey findings from December 2018 show that 54% of respondents overall say Brexit has no impact on their decision to study in the UK, up from 46% in December 2016.
Keeping an eye on Brexit impact
Ever since the initial Brexit vote in June 2016, GMAC has been tracking GMAT test taker’s interest in studying in the UK by conducting periodic surveys of non-UK citizens who sent a GMAT score report to a UK business school program.
It had been unclear how the prospect of Brexit would affect UK business schools which rely heavily on international students. The vote, it had been feared, could restrict or complicate the student visa process and dampen international candidates’ postgraduation job prospects in the UK, both because of possible changes to work visa policies and jobs leaving the UK. GMAC CEO Sangeet Chowfla said:
The level of interest we are seeing from international candidates in UK b-schools is a major factor in the overall global stability we are observing in graduate management education. It is also a success story in mobility that I hope will continue in the UK as Brexit continues to unfold. If we are to maintain a healthy climate for aspiring candidates, we need to make it possible for people from different regions and backgrounds to study and work in the location they desire.
The survey findings show that demand for UK business education is driven by the reputation of the UK educational system, the aspirants’ desire to develop an international network, and also their desire to improve their chances of having an international career. Their ultimate selection of a study destination is primarily influenced by a desire to study at a specific program or school in the location.
The survey findings also show, however, that there is some hesitancy among candidates amidst the uncertainty of the looming exit from the EU. While overall most respondents to the December 2018 survey say Brexit has no impact on their decision making, about half of non-UK Europeans say they are less likely to decide to study in the UK because of Brexit (51%). Most non-UK candidates overall consider Brexit as damaging the availability of student and work visas in the UK, and over time candidates’ perceptions of the impact of Brexit on the cost of education and living in the UK have become more negative.
Despite this, GMAT score sending behavior shows that UK programs have remained just as popular a choice for business school as before the 2016 Brexit vote. In fact, the share of GMAT score reports sent to UK programs has increased slightly since the Brexit vote and is stable or up across world regions of citizenship. The increase is particularly strong among test takers from Asia-Pacific countries and test takers with a total score of 600 and above. Findings from GMAC’s annual Application Trends Survey also show continued strong international demand for UK programs, as 71% report year-on-year international application volume growth in 2018.