MBA programs in the UK have for a long time been among the world's most diverse and the UK, according to the most recent QS TopMBA.com Applicant Survey (2009), is still the second most popular destination for MBA candidates. But in recent years the Bologna Agreement, the capricious pound and the improving competition have seen the proportion of UK MBA candidates staying at home tail off slightly. And now the country's business schools are trying to find ways to attract them back.
Without overstating the case - the figures provided by GMAC show a mere 2% decrease in applications by Brits to UK business schools, with US and Hong Kong schools taking up most of the slack - there is some concern about attracting decent numbers of home-based talent to British MBA programs. This couples with a significant statistic form the 2009 QS Survey which shows that 72% of British MBA candidates would consider studying in the UK, down from 77% the previous year.
Professor Elaine Ferneley, Director of MBA, Manchester Business School, argues that the banks cutting back on accessible funding for MBA students is part of the cause. In the UK the financial crisis has hit funding opportunities for high-level management education, preventing the ability for talented future business leaders to invest full-time in their personal and professional development.
For Patricia Hind of Ashridge Business School there has been a slight moving of the goalposts in Europe recently, coinciding with an overall improvement of the competition internationally. The Bologna Agreement puts UK postgraduate degrees in the same position as the rest of Europe. Before this we had a bit of an edge. Also, the rise in quantity and quality of Asian business schools is reducing the pool of potential students from Asia who would normally have wanted a British qualification.
Progressive schools are seeing the trend early and are promoting themselves actively to British students. Manchester Business School looks like taking a lead here, tackling the funding problem head on with a new scholarship for British talent. We recognise the essential need to invest in people who can rise to the challenges of the global business environment and create real value in both business and society as future business leaders and entrepreneurs. With this in mind we're delighted to offer a new scholarship program for the full-time MBA - up to £15,000 - to support talented British and EEA candidates.
There has also been an increase in distance-learned MBAs in recent years. Though these courses lack the immediacy of daily contact with peers and professors, their flexibility, as well as the great improvements in the online interface, attracts candidates. For Brits this also staves off some of the funding problems as distance learned MBAs can be taken over a longer period of time and allws the student to stay in full-time employment.
According to Jill Howarth, Postgraduate Admissions Manager at Durham Business School, Our part time MBA is more popular for British applicants. In 2009 we received 35 British applications. In general there is also a higher conversion rate from application to actual student on the part-time MBA. We also receive a number of British applications to our [distance learned] Global MBA Programme. Between August 2008 and July 2009 we received a total of 50 British applications, while [in the nine months since August 2009] we have already received 49 British applications.
The fact remains that the UK still has an extremely high level of MBA education and that salaries received by graduates from British MBA programs are extremely high. The QS Recruitment and Salary Report 2009 shows that average salaries for UK MBA graduates was US$108,900. It is also true that MBA candidates, where possible, generally like to head overseas to broaden their horizons, learn about other cultures and languages and to make themselves more marketable, with international experience.
The onus is on the British business schools to persuade local talent, with international desires and relative wealth to move abroad, that staying within the shores of the UK is the better option.