An American business school has shifted all its courses towards mathematics in a bid to encourage international recruitment in the face of growing visa restrictions and Donald Trump’s anti-migrant rhetoric.
Most international graduates in the US are currently entitled to work in the country for one year after the end of their course before their visa expires. However, graduates from degrees that are designated as science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses are entitled to a further two years of post-study work, a key attraction for many overseas learners.
In response, the Simon Business School at the University of Rochester, New York, has secured STEM designation for all of its courses – despite business degrees traditionally being seen as outside this category – in a bid to boost overseas enrolment.
“The current restrictions on visas significantly impact our international students,” said Andrew Ainslie, the business school’s dean. “Essentially, these policies are limiting the movement of capital and people.”
Professor Ainslie said that the longer period of post-study work gave graduates more time to find employment and apply for further work-related visas.
“It’s also more attractive to recruiters because they can plan on keeping employees for longer than 12 months,” he said.
The move is particularly significant in the face of the Trump administration’s open scepticism towards immigration, which has been blamed for driving a fall in international student recruitment in the US.
Overall international recruitment fell 1.5 per cent this year, according to a snapshot study by the Institute of International Education, following a 6.6 per cent drop the previous year. The Graduate Management Admissions Council reported that there had been a 10.5 per cent decline in international applications to US business schools in 2018.
A tightening of the rules governing H-1B visas, which are given to specialist workers, has been seen as discouraging international students from applying to US MBA programmes.
Professor Ainslie said that, since moving to STEM designation, Rochester had managed to buck this trend.
“Most business schools have seen a drop in international applications, but ours have gone up,” he said. “This is what is giving us an advantage in the market.”
To meet government requirements for STEM designation, courses must dedicate 50 per cent of their teaching to STEM courses. Dr Ainslie explained that the university had been able to do so easily because “analytics are in our DNA”.
“Years ago, the school decided that economics and analytics were extremely important, so we are staffed predominantly with economists and analysts and built our curriculum around data,” he explained. “It’s not that we don’t offer any of the soft skills, but we are more heavily weighted toward getting our students comfortable with solving analytical problems.”
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