Rivalry for MBA recruits hots up

October 21, 2005

Britain's business schools face increasingly fierce competition from abroad for MBA students as overseas governments plough millions of pounds into domestic MBA programmes.

UK schools fear that applications from foreign students have dropped as a result of expanding provision in China, India, New Zealand and Australia.

They believe that many rapidly developing business schools overseas are trying to lure MBA applicants away from Britain.

The overseas threat was one of the central points raised this week at the conference of the Association of Business Schools. Some one in three of those studying for a masters in business and management at a UK institution comes from overseas.

Jonathan Slack, chief executive of the ABS, said that MBA providers needed to consider their international position in the marketplace. He said:

"Things are getting more competitive. Australia, New Zealand, Canada and others are making huge investments in their business schools. A business school needs to consider its global position. Some schools have remained as they were ten years ago. That needs to change.

"Our biggest challenge is to attract sufficient international students to retain our current size and capability in the UK."

Home-grown courses in China and India posed the greatest threat, said Tim Jenkinson at Oxford University's Said Business School. Dr Jenkinson, a reader in business economics, said: "We are in fact expanding, but we are now having to compete with domestic courses in India and China."

A statement from the school this month boasted that it had increased the number of enrolments "despite a difficult year in the MBA market".

Chris Jeffery, director of the executive MBA programme at City University's Cass Business School, said that the fall in the number of applications had yet to have an impact on class sizes.

He said: "There has been a decline in numbers of MBA applications and that is partly because of the home-grown MBA courses around the world. But it doesn't look like this is going to change things recruitment-wise.

"The challenge is from the fact that there are fewer applicants per place.

But often the students who are not applying would not have been of a high enough calibre."

Overall, numbers of postgraduate students studying business and administration in the UK are on the increase. Data from the ABS show that in 2003-04, 40,497 enrolled compared with 25,054 in 2001-02.

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