Diplomacy and business-school applications: Welcome to Canada

WHEN Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, was pictured welcoming refugees to the country with open arms in January, it made for a stark contrast with the policy of his counterpart south of the border. It also struck a chord with the wider world. It was a good moment for brand Canada on the international stage. Mr Trudeau’s warm welcome may also have benefited business schools; foreign MBA students are another demographic feeling unwelcome in the United States.

In April this blog pondered the immediate impact of Donald Trump becoming president, and found that American business schools were concerned about the effect a closed-door immigration policy would have on their student intake. Data from Canadian business schools are now shedding a little more light on the Trump-effect.

Interest in attending the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto has been increasing for a while, according to Niki da Silva, who runs the school's full tIme MBA . Applications have risen around 10% every year, she says. Until this year, when the number jumped by 30% for candidates looking to start this September.

While the school has made more of an effort to attract international students, that only accounts for half the increase, Ms da Silva believes. Though she never mentions the T-word, she does talk of a “perfect storm”. The country has emerged as a strong—and heretofore unplanned—choice for candidates to business schools. That much is borne out in GMAT data, which show that some MBA candidates who send their test scores to America and Britain (which also wants to raise its drawbridge to immigrants) are now also showing interest in Rotman for the first time. Candidates, Ms da Silva reckons, appreciate the fact that MBA graduates in Canada are eligible for a three-year work permit once they complete their course. Simply put, the United States is no longer as attractive as it once was, she says.

Rotman is not alone. On the west coast of Canada, the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver has seen a similarly stark increase in applicants this year. Between 2016 and 2017, full-time MBA applications increased by 50%. Like his counterpart in Toronto, the school's dean, Ali Dastmalchian, is coy about attributing the rise to the current inhabitant of the White House, but does cite tightened immigration policies in America as one of the contributing factors to the increase in numbers. Mr Dastmalchian also notes that the Canadian dollar’s exchange rate compared to both the pound and the dollar has helped—particularly as British university fees have increased.

Beedie’s full-time MBA class of 50 students has traditionally drawn its numbers from 10 or 11 countries. The class starting later this year will jet in from closer to 20. People who would previously have not applied to Canadian business schools are now considering Beedie and its competitors.

America’s loss is Canada’s gain. Where Mr Trump presents an “America first” attitude on the international stage, Mr Trudeau’s diplomacy is more deft. The words and actions of Mr Trump are having an effect on the intentions of the highly-educated, internationally-diverse pool of business school applicants, it seems. How deleterious an effect is just beginning to be seen.

Readers' comments

Reader comments are listed below. Comments are currently closed and new comments are no longer being accepted.



According to the Economist's own MBA rankings, the top ranked Canadian school is York University @ 56th overall in the world; however 7 of the top 10 schools ranked are American based. Thus the competition for acceptance at a top level MBA school in the US is both very fierce and expensive.

If Canadian schools are seeing a spike in applications its because of easy acceptance and cost, and nothing to do with Trudeau vs Trump politics.

Sphoorthy LA in reply to guest-saljnao

I'm not sure ease of acceptance and cost are the only reasons for why applications to Canadian schools have been steadily rising. Extrapolating just from this article, it's been mentioned that there has been a surge in the number of applications in the year 2016-2017, compared to previous years.
The rankings have been that way for quite a while now, with Canadian institutions ranking in the top 100, while American ones rank all the way up to the top 10. The spike indicates that the reason is something much more recent than the rankings, which haven't varied a lot, so politics may as well have influenced this.
Of course, there's still not a lot of proof in the article to state that it is only President Trump's foreign policy that is affecting application trends. Rather it is most likely a combination of the short-term factors (politics) and the long-term (acceptance rates and fees).


Advertisement feature


Products and events

Take our weekly news quiz to stay on top of the headlines

Visit The Economist e-store and you’ll find a range of carefully selected products for business and pleasure, Economist books and diaries, and much more