More than half of business school representatives believe that growing competition in the sector will lead to closures or mergers in the UK.
A report from the Chartered Association of Business Schools says that UK business schools face an “increasingly sophisticated and diverse set of competitors”, as the international business school market improves, online providers offer cheaper study options, alternative providers at home expand into the market and political decisions affect the choices of students.
For its report, The Changing Shape of Business Education Provision, Cabs surveyed its members’ deans and senior managers and found that many believe the impact could be “dramatic” for some institutions. The survey showed that 61 per cent of respondents agreed that the growing number of alternative and international providers entering the marketplace was “likely to lead to closure or mergers of existing UK business schools”.
The survey showed that few UK business school leaders see recruiting international students as less of an opportunity for growth in the future. Only about 30 per cent of respondents saw postgraduate international recruitment as a future opportunity, with 25 per cent seeing promise in undergraduate expansion.
The report says that numbers of undergraduate non-European Union international students studying business in the UK have stayed steady around 44,000 in the last few years. Although postgraduate numbers increased by 8.9 per cent last year to 54,865, this was still less than the 59,170 studying in 2011-12.
UK schools’ ability to attract more international students will be affected by the growing competition from Australia, Canada, and across Europe in particular, the report says. Latin America was also making “steady inroads” with well-funded and staffed institutions and the increasing quality of Chinese business schools was also likely to affect UK recruitment of Chinese students, it says.
“If it was just one driver of change, even if that driver was Brexit, the changes required might be manageable, but when the change comes from international competition, government policy, technological transformation, new employer requirements and shifting demographics, the complexity of change becomes almost unmanageable,” the report says.
The total number in undergraduate and postgraduate students at UK business schools has been in decline since 2011-12, but had begun to recover in the past two years. In 2017-18, the total number of students studying for a business degree in the UK was 342,970, up by 2.9 per cent from the previous year.
Nearly all – 96 per cent – of respondents agreed that business schools would have to evolve the products that they offer to meet the rapidly evolving skills required by businesses. The survey found that 89 per cent were already offering or planning to offer blended degrees and 73 per are already offering or planning to offer online degrees other than an MBA.