Applications to full-time MBA courses, where international students make up 90 per cent of the intake, were down by a fifth in 2011 compared with the previous year.
Sharon Bamford, chief executive of AMBA, said that there had been a “huge amount” of poor press in India over the past 15 months that had given the impression that the UK was closing its doors to international students.
However, in China there “hasn’t been such an impact”, she said.
The removal of the right to stay and work in the UK for two years after a degree had also hit recruitment, she said.
Many students had wanted to remain for “a couple of years as part of their career progression”, she said.
George Murgatroyd, research manager at AMBA, said that the full-time MBA market “seems to be going through a contraction”.
There had also been poor press abroad about the state of the UK economy, he added.
But applications also fell by more than a quarter to part-time MBA courses, where EU students, who are not affected by the visa changes, are in the majority.
Actual enrolments on part-time courses were up 16 per cent, however, because business schools made a greater proportion of offers to applications, and because more students accepted the offers.
Total applications to all types of MBA in the UK were down from 30,777 in 2010 to 26,090 in 2011.
The price of an MBA has gone up by 5 per cent in the UK between 2010 and 2011, Mr Murgatroyd said.
The survey took data from the 41 business schools that are accredited by AMBA in the UK.
The UK trend contrasts with that seen in a number of other markets. There was significant rise in MBA enrolments in Latin America (20 per cent) and China (30 per cent) at AMBA accredited schools.