Shrinking reach

BUSINESS-SCHOOL classrooms are like a busy airport departure lounge: an agglomeration of people from all four corners of the world. But they may not be for much longer. The global reach of the MBA has shrunk in just a few years, and could yet shrink further. According to the MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance (MBACSEA), an association of more than 200 business schools, job opportunities for international MBA students have fallen for the second year running. More than two-thirds of MBACSEA schools surveyed in the first two months of 2018 said they saw fewer chances of employment for their foreign graduates; last year, half did.

Three-quarters of the schools surveyed by the MBACSEA are in the United States. President Donald Trump’s tough approach to immigration, and his policy to put “America first”, have dented opportunities for students not born in the country. Megan Hendricks, executive director of the MBACSEA, is wary of putting all the blame on Mr Trump himself, though does say that the environment that has been created in the country has created uncertainty among employers. “They don’t want to take the risk of hiring international students and go through a lengthy and expensive visa process, only to learn that those students are not able to stay here,” she says.

The new data could further deter prospective students from pursuing management education in the United States. Previous surveys of business schools by the Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the GMAT entrance exam, have shown a decline in applications from foreign students applying to American business schools. This latest report will reinforce concerns that, after investing upwards of $100,000 on tuition, they’d be unable to find work in the United States.

The issue is not limited to graduates of costly MBA courses. Foreign graduates of specialised masters programmes, preferred by many because of their comparatively cheaper cost, are also seeing their opportunities dwindle. Roughly four in ten schools report a decrease in full-time job opportunities for their specialised masters graduates, and fewer than one in five schools say the job market has improved for immigrant graduates. And while many of the respondents to the MBACSEA’s survey are based in the United States, a good proportion are not, and are still seeing similar issues.

A hostile environment to foreigners in general may have another impact, dissuading some academics from taking up places in countries where isolationism rules, or encouraging them to take up opportunities elsewhere. One Canadian academic, working at an American business school, has recently accepted a post teaching in Europe because of America’s move towards splendid isolationism. “I was horrified by what I saw; the hate and intolerance in US society,” says the academic, who does not want to be named for fear that speaking out would affect her career. “I don’t want to live in a society that is full of that.”

Nonetheless, there is one bright spot. Although many sectors are hiring the same number of MBAs as before, one industry is reporting huge hiring growth. Talented foreigners looking for jobs will want to send their CVs to technology firms, from which 43% of schools have reported an increase in recruitment. By comparison, fewer than one in ten schools reported an increase in recruitment from the financial-services sector. 

Advertisement

Advertisement feature

Advertisement

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

Advertisement