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Tough Lessons for British Business Schools Resonate Worldwide

The majority of British business schools are facing the coming admissions cycle with some grim statistics in the back of their mind.

Last year’s enrollment numbers, a Financial Times article reports, were the lowest in eight years, and, perhaps even more troublingly, showed a continued and pronounced decline in the number of international students pursuing their MBA in the United Kingdom.

The Financial Times cites a number of reasons for the disheartening statistics.

Some are specific to Britain, such as the collapse of the nation’s student loan market or the stringency of U.K. visa regulations, which make it difficult for international students to find work in the UK, even for only a year after graduation.

British Business Schools

Other underlying causes, however, stretch far beyond British borders.

The article points out that the number of elite MBA programs in Asia is growing, and that those programs are succeeding, at least in part, in keeping talented Asian students close to home.

Recent rankings have painted a more global MBA picture, and I expect elite MBA programs to continue to grow in Asia and expand in other regions, especially Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.

Such expansion and diversification can be a game-changer for MBA applicants, particularly those considering international study.

Whether looking to study in Britain or not, the Financial Times article holds lessons all applicants would do well to consider.

Perhaps most notably, this article reconfirms the importance of B-school rankings. The five U.K. schools highest in world rankings best withstood the current decline and show the most promising numbers.

The relative immunity of those top schools highlights the value of an elite international reputation in the transition to post-graduate opportunities, a transition that can be uniquely challenging to international students.

Those who choose to stay in the country where they received their degree can encounter visa problems and work restrictions, while those who choose to move or return home might find themselves detached from the alumni networks that can be so valuable.

An elite school, with a reputation and a network stretching worldwide, can help overcome some of those challenges.

If you are looking to pursue an MBA internationally, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that you minimize the issues outlined in this article and maximize your opportunities.

 – First, always do your research and always extend that research into a school’s post graduation network and opportunities. How far to their alumni networks stretch? Can you speak with other international alumni about their experience? Have students successfully found employment in that country or abroad? How will the school help you find employment in the region you are most interested in?

 – Second, make sure you can clearly articulate why you want to pursue an MBA at a particular international school and how it will help you along your career path. There are so many different and specialized MBA programs today; it is important to be selective about why you want to attend a program and what it will do for you, especially if you are considering an international school

Declining numbers are not necessarily a reason to panic- in fact, it might be the perfect time for that classic British mantra, “Keep calm and carry on”. Though, in this case, I might adapt it slightly- “Keep calm and look forward”.

Forward-thinking, both in how we structure our business education and why we choose the schools we do- will always be an asset, no matter what state of flux we might find ourselves in.

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