At the end of 2008, applications for MBA programmes
across the globe had reached unprecedented levels. A survey by GMAC, the Graduate Management Admissions Council, of 500 schools around the world found that the number of potential MBA students had risen by a staggering 64% on the previous year, as managers and professionals were keen on business education (India Education
) as a way of turning the economic crisis into a career development opportunity.
Among Indian applicants, however, there is increasing evidence that demand for places on programmes in the US, historically the most popular international destination, is beginning to tail off. "Demand from international applicants has softened," says Rose Martinelli, associate dean at Chicago Booth, "and particularly from Indian candidates who have traditionally made up a very large pool of talent." Other top schools have reported a 5 to 10% decline in international applications in their recent second round, with Indian numbers lower in particular.
DIP IN APPLICATIONS
This reduction in numbers does not seem to have been caused by any disillusionment with US business education but rather by two factors directly connected to the economic downturn. Namely the increasing uncertainty about the H1-B visa, the standard means to stay and work in the country for Indian MBA graduates, and the shortage of loans to cover programme costs.
At many top US schools, Indian applicants make up between 10% and 15% of overall applications, and yet they often secure less than 5% of the places in the programme. There is some comfort, therefore, in the recent fall in demand, with the implication that competition among Indian candidates will be slightly lower.
However, as Pete Johnson, admissions director at UC Berkeley — Haas, points out, "Regardless of the volume, the most important factor is always the quality of the application. The applications that stand out are those from applicants who have strong academic preparation, good work experience and letters of recommendation, and a clear understanding of what they will gain from their MBA experience."
So is this decline in Indian MBA applicants confined purely to the US market, or are other key international destinations also being affected?
At the McGill School in Canada, associate director Aimee-Noel Hartley reports a more positive picture. "We've actually seen a 20% increase in international applications this year," she says, "and our applications from India have nearly doubled. Lower tuition rates than in the US and a new immigration policy, which allows overseas graduates to stay on and work in Canada seems to be making us an increasingly attractive proposition for foreign students."