The Influence of Politics on Students Studying Abroad

Immigration policies are causing some international students to rethink studying in the U.S. and U.K.

What effect do protectionist policies have on students’ preferences for graduate business study abroad? Two surveys recently asked prospective MBA students how they view increasingly rigid immigration policies in the U.S. and Brexit in the U.K. They also were asked how these policies would impact where they choose to study.

Eighty percent of the 755 prospective MBA students surveyed by Stacy Blackman Consulting, a firm based in Los Angeles that guides prospective MBAs through the admissions process, fear that the immigration policies espoused by President Donald Trump would make U.S. business schools less diverse. More than 21 percent either agree or somewhat agree that their concern over these policies will lead them to apply only to schools outside the U.S.

These findings are similar to those of the most recent Prospective Student Survey from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). Forty-three percent of international students surveyed say that Trump’s policies have made them less likely to consider U.S. schools for graduate business education. Of international students surveyed, 80 percent had considered U.S. schools for their graduate study as of July 2017; however, of this group, 26 percent are no longer planning to apply to U.S. programs.

In a second survey of 700 GMAT test-takers, 67 percent would reconsider plans to study in the U.S. if they could not be granted work visas after graduation.

The Brexit vote has had a similar dampening effect on international students’ enthusiasm to study in the United Kingdom. Among GMAT test-takers from outside the U.K., 45 percent indicate that Brexit has made it less likely for them to study at U.K. schools. Among candidates from India, 58 percent say Brexit has made them less likely to study in the U.K.

Despite prospective students’ concerns, the United States remains their most popular destination for study. Fifty-eight percent of respondents who plan to study outside their home countries express a preference to study in the U.S. The next most popular destination is Western Europe, where 25 percent say they hope to study.

GMAC’s survey is available at